American College of Pediatricians Calls for Strong Protections for Minors From Sexual Predators 

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Quentin Van Meter, MD, FCP, President

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The California legislature recently passed two bills that if signed into law will make it easier for sexual predators to exploit minors. 

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, childhood sexual abuse is the “involvement of [a] child in sexual activity to provide sexual gratification or financial benefit to the perpetrator, including contacts for sexual purposes, molestation, statutory rape, prostitution, pornography, exposure, incest, or other sexually exploitative activities.”1 Children cannot consent to sexual relations with adults due to their cognitive immaturity and the psychological power differential inherent to the relationship. This is why statutory rape, defined as nonforcible sexual intercourse with a person who is younger than the statutory age of consent, is a recognized form of childhood sexual abuse (CSA). CSA is associated with elevated rates of mental illness including depression, anxiety, substance use, altered body image, self-mutilation and suicide attempts.2,3

On August 31, 2020, the California Senate passed Assembly Bill 145 which eliminates mandated sex offender registration of an adult involved in “consensual” same-sex sex acts with children as young as age 14, as long as the perpetrator is not more than 10 years older than the child. The bill’s author and LGBT Caucus leader, Senator Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco), argued that the bill was necessary because California law unfairly targeted same-sex sex acts with minors over opposite-sex sex acts with minors. Specifically, California law incorrectly left to the discretion of judges whether or not 24-year-old adults had to register as sex offenders if they engaged in penile-vaginal sex with children as young as age 14, while mandating sex offender registry if the “consensual” sex act was of a same-sex nature with similarly aged adults and minors.

A clear-thinking and moral legislature would have demanded that the welfare of children, not the political goals of adult sexual predators, dictate the new law and require that all 24-year-old adults who engage in any sex acts with children be registered as sex offenders. Instead of redressing a bad law, the California legislature created a second.

Earlier in the legislative session, the Senate also passed Assembly Bill 1145 to weaken the reporting requirement in cases of statutory sexual activity between perpetrators under age 21 and victims who are at least 16 years old. In other words, school teachers, counselors and physicians are no longer mandated to report cases of statutory rape that occur between a 19 or 20-year-old adult and a 16-year-old student or patient. If the sexual activity is “consensual,” then no report to authorities is required.

Dr. Joseph Zanga, an expert in child sexual abuse and a past president of the ACPeds, stated, “The existing laws in question were placed into the California Statutes to prevent the abuse of minors, whose intellectual immaturity makes them vulnerable. These proposed modifications put more children at increased risk of abuse. It strains the bounds of common sense that any legislator (some of whom must be parents) would allow such proposals to pass out of Committee much less to pass them into law.”

ACPeds urges the people of California to speak loudly and demand that Governor Newsom veto this ill-conceived attempt to allow the further abuse of children in their State.

References

1.  US Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children & Families, Children’s Bureau. Child Maltreatment 2018. Jan 15, 2020. Available at: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/cm2018.pdf#page=120.  Accessed September 6, 2020. 

2.  Maniglio R. The impact of child sexual abuse on health: a systematic review of reviews. Clin Psychol Rev. 2009;29(7):647-657.

3.  Mignot S, Fritel X, Loreal M, et al. Identifying teenage sexual abuse victims by questions on their daily lives. Child Abuse Negl. 2018;85:127-136.


About the American College of Pediatricians

The American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) is a national medical association of licensed physicians and healthcare professionals who specialize in the care of infants, children, and adolescents. It was founded by a group of concerned physicians who saw the need for a pediatric organization that would not be influenced by the politically driven pronouncements of the day. The mission of the ACPeds is to enable all children to reach their optimal physical and emotional health and well-being. The ACPeds is committed to fulfilling its mission by producing sound policy, based upon the best available research, to assist parents and to influence society in the endeavor of childrearing.