Council Meeting:  May 25, 2005                                                     Santa Monica, CA   

 

To:                   Mayor and City Council

From:              City Staff

Subject:          Request of the Commission on the Status of Women that the City Council Support State Senate Bill 33 (SB 33)

 

Introduction

This report transmits a request from the Santa Monica Commission on the Status of Women (COSW) to secure City Council support of SB 33, the Circle of Trust Bill, which closes loopholes in California’s child abuse and incest laws related to sexual abuse of children by a relative, and authorize staff to communicate the City’s position to the appropriate parties.

 

Background

In keeping with other legislation mandating family reunification, if at all possible, in cases of child abuse and neglect, in 1981 the State legislature codified preferential treatment for intrafamilial child sexual abuse in three main statutes.  Penal Code 1203.066 contains a sentencing loophole for family members, waiving prison sentences, even for severe and ongoing sexual abuse, if the victim lives in the perpetrator’s household. Similar preferential treatment exclusively for incest perpetrators is contained in PC 1000.12 and 1000.13, allowing “deferred entry of judgment” followed by dropping of all charges. These are used in conjunction with PC 285, the incest statute, to significantly lighten the penalty for people who sexually abuse children to whom they are related. 

Briefly, SB 33 will:

·        End preferential treatment for persons found guilty of continuous sexual abuse of or lewd and lascivious acts upon children who are related to the perpetrator (amends PC 1203.066, PC 288.1 and PC 667.61);

·        End preferential treatment for persons found guilty of incest against children to whom they are related (amends PC 285); and

·        End preferential treatment for persons found guilty of sexually abusing children to whom they are related, and close the loophole that allows perpetrators to have all record of their conviction erased by attending a treatment program (amends PC 1000.12 and repeals 1000.13).

 

An earlier version of SB 33, AB 1803, was introduced in 2004 and did not advance out of the Public Safety Committee.  State Senator Jim Battin (R-Riverside County) introduced SB 33 on December 13, 2004 with minor changes from AB 1803.  It is currently on the suspense calendar, awaiting scheduling for a Senate vote.  It advanced out of both the Public Safety Committee and the Appropriations Committee.  If it passes in the Senate, it will go to the Assembly for a vote.

 

The California Department of Justice estimates that, since 1981, more than 60% (50,000) of those convicted of lewd and lascivious acts with a child (PC 288) and continuous sexual abuse of a child (PC 288.5), have served no time in state prison because they were related to the child who was abused.  The other 40% of those convicted of the same crimes served mandatory three or six year terms in state prison because they were not related to the child.


Discussion

At its February 9, 2005 meeting, the COSW voted to request that the City Council formally support SB 33.  The COSW is deeply concerned that children who are sexually abused by a family member do not have the same protections as those who are victimized by non-family members.  The changes to existing statutes close the “family loophole” and clarify existing law to place those convicted of sexually abusing children in their own family at the same penalty level as those convicted of sexually abusing children to whom they are not related.

 

Since 2002, similar bills have been passed in North Carolina, Arkansas and Illinois.  SB 33 has the support of more than 20 organizations and individuals, including City of El Cerrito, City of Oxnard Police Department, Feminist Majority, the Child Trauma Academy, and California Alliance Against Domestic Violence. 

 

Budget/Financial Impact

The recommendation presented in this report does not have any budget or financial impact.

 

Recommendation

The Commission on the Status of Women recommends that the City Council take action supporting SB 33 and direct City Staff to communicate this support to the appropriate parties.

 

 

Prepared by:  Barbara Stinchfield, Director

                        Julie Rusk, Human Services Division Manager

                        Janet Hand, Senior Administrative Analyst, Human Services Division

                        Community and Cultural Services Department, for the Commission on the Status of Women