Sen. Fran Pavley
Sens. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, and Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, introduced SB 651 on Friday, a bill designed to address sexual assaults against patients at developmental centers and state hospitals. It would ensure that abuse victims within state institutions receive timely forensic medical examinations. The legislation is sponsored by Disability Rights California.
“We must put an end to the repeated sexual abuse of men and women with developmental disabilities,” said Pavley, whose 27th Senate District includes about half of the Santa Clarita Valley. “Residents of large institutions, like developmental centers and state hospitals, are particularly vulnerable because of their isolation and reliance on staff.”
SB 651 has two main provisions. First, it would require investigators at developmental centers and state hospitals to send suspected victims of sexual assault to an outside facility to receive a rape exam, as is currently required at state correctional institutions. Second, it would make failure to report a sexual assault or violent crime within a facility a Class B Violation. Under SB 651, the facility would be subject to fines of up to $2,000 per violation. Last year, Leno successfully carried SB 1522, which requires a developmental center to immediately report a death, sexual assault or other violent crime immediately to law enforcement, but the bill did not include the penalty.
In addition to Disability Rights, Pavley and Leno are working with the California District Attorneys Association, the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA), The Arc of California and United Cerebral Palsy on this important legislation.
Sen. Mark Leno
Leslie Morrison, Directing Attorney of Disability Rights California’s Investigations Unit, cited studies finding that people with severe mental illness are 23 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than the general population, and that four out of five psychiatric patients have been physically or sexually assaulted at some point.
“Few victims are sent for forensic sexual assault examinations at an examination facility off grounds,” Morrison said. “Of the 12 most recent allegations of sexual assault in which a staff member was the reported perpetrator, only one state psychiatric facility sent the alleged victim for an independent outside examination.”
In recent months, an investigative reporting team at California Watch has published a series of stories on sexual and physical abuse at developmental centers. In November, they reported that there have been 36 accusations of molestation and rape of residents by caretakers in the last four years at California’s state institutions for the developmentally disabled. However, the Office of Protective Services, the police force at California’s five developmental centers, failed to order a single rape exam during three of the four years.
Physical evidence is particularly important in cases involving the developmentally disabled, because they often lack the ability to give testimony to courts and investigators.
SB 651 would apply to the following institutions.
Five developmental centers:
Sonoma Developmental Center
Lanterman Developmental Center
Porterville Developmental Center
Fairview Developmental Center
Canyon Springs Developmental Center
Five state hospitals:
Atascadero State Hospital
Coalinga State Hospital
Metropolitan State Hospital
Napa State Hospital
Patton State Hospital
Three Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation medical facilities that have mental health units that are run by the Department of State Hospitals:
Salinas Valley Psychiatric Program
Vacaville Psychiatric Program
Stockton Psychiatric Program