Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 651 by Sen. Fran Pavley on Thursday, providing protections to victims of sex crimes in state hospitals and developmental centers.
The bill requires victims of suspected abuse in state centers for the developmentally disabled and state hospitals to receive exams from trained investigators at independent facilities. Independent exams may be performed at state facilities if it is safer for the patient.
Exams by trained investigators are a critical step in collecting evidence and investigating suspected sexual assaults and rapes. They will help address a serious lapse in oversight at facilities, where numerous residents have been sexually assaulted under the state’s care with no consequences.
At developmental centers, 59 cases of alleged molestation of residents were reported over a three-year period and not a single exam was performed, according to a report by Disability Rights California. At state hospitals, only 29 out of 165 suspected victims received exams over a similar period.
“I am pleased the governor recognizes the need to protect vulnerable Californians from abuse and hold both perpetrators and state caretakers accountable,” Pavley said.
The bill was sponsored by Disability Rights California and supported by the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA).
“SB 651 ensures that residents of California’s developmental centers and state hospitals who are victims of sexual assault are referred for forensic exams by independent, expert sexual assault examiners,” said Leslie Morrison, director of investigations for Disability Rights California. “This basic step is the gateway to gathering evidence to help support criminal prosecutions and ensures that vulnerable victims isolated in state institutions have equal protection under the law when victimized.”
“CALCASA is pleased that the Governor has signed SB 651 to ensure that every sexual assault victim at the state’s Developmental Centers and state hospitals receive a sexual assault evidentiary exam from qualified and experienced forensic examiners,” said Sandra Henriquez, executive director for CALCASA. “Every sexual assault survivor deserves access to the rape kit exam.”
Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, represents about half of the Santa Clarita Valley in the state Senate.