COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON 02133
Senator Joan B. Lovely
2nd Essex District
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
July 18, 2017
Senator Joan Lovely’s Important Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Bill Heard by Joint Committee on Education
(Boston) – Senator Joan Lovely’s priority bill aimed at preventing child sexual abuse was heard today by the Joint Committee on Education.
Child sexual abuse affects far too many children and youth in Massachusetts and across the country. According to a study conducted by the Center for Disease Control, 16% of men and 25% of women have experienced unwanted sexual contact with an adult or older child when they were children. Additional studies show that 1 in 4 females and 1 in 6 males reported having experienced some form of sexual abuse or exploitation before the age of 18. Yet, it is estimated that 80% or more of child sexual abuse cases are never reported to law enforcement or child protective services.
“In my role as a lawmaker, I have spent the past two legislative sessions drafting pieces of legislation aimed at addressing how child sexual abuse goes undetected and unreported,” stated Senator Joan Lovely. “That is why this session I have filed an omnibus bill, S.295, An Act relative to preventing the sexual abuse of children and youth, which aims to protect children and youth through a series of changes aimed at training, education, and reporting procedures that will increase awareness and prevent more children from becoming victims.”
S.295 would provide employees, contractors, and volunteers in schools and youth-serving organizations with annual instruction on the identification of, and response to, child sexual abuse. To supplement this training, children would also be provided with age-appropriate instruction to help students and youth recognize and report boundary-violating behaviors and exploitation. The bill also expands the list of mandated reporters to include domestic violence workers, volunteer and professional athletic coaches, professional tutors, and information technology repair or service personnel. Once an incident is reported, provisions in the bill would require supervisors to confirm back to initial reporters whether or not a report was filed with the Department of Children and Families. Providing more training and awareness for students and educators, and expanding the number of adults reporting, will ensure more incidents are addressed.
In addition, S.295 would help to ensure that those adults who have been dismissed from a job due to accusations of sexual assault do not again find themselves working in a similar position. Provisions would also require the Department of Early and Secondary Education to report allegations of wrongdoing to the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification Clearinghouse to ensure that teachers and employees accused of wrongdoing are not able to evade detection by crossing state borders.
Finally, the bill addresses several statutes in order to more accurately reflect the realities of today’s society and provide additional support for victims of child sexual abuse. The bill closes an existing loophole which currently allows teachers and youth-serving employees to claim consent with students and youth over 16, by precluding teachers and other school and youth-serving employees from claiming consent with a high-school student under the age of 19, or for special education students, age 22. The bill also makes clear that consensual sexual contact between students is not included within the definition of statutory rape – commonly referred to as a “Romeo and Juliet” clause. The bill makes large strides in updating the violent crime compensation law to allow victims of child sexual abuse to make a claim for compensation up to three years after the connection is made between the abuse and the harm suffered, instead of three years after the abuse occurred. Lastly, this bill amends the governmental and charitable tort liability to hold non-governmental youth-serving organizations to the same tort liability standards as other organizations in cases of child sexual abuse.
“S.295 is a comprehensive piece of legislation that addresses an uncomfortable and difficult topic in our society,” stated Senator Lovely. “I am proud to champion this cause and invite others to advocate for these much needed improvements to our general laws. Children deserve the strongest and most effective protections we can offer as a society, and I am confident that leaders on Beacon Hill will deliver.”
At the hearing, the Joint Committee heard compelling, supportive testimony from advocates, police chiefs, school officials, youth-serving organizations and survivors of sexual abuse on the importance of this bill.
“Hopefully this bill will close some of the loop holes that Law Enforcement have been plagued with for years and allow us the opportunity to engage, educate, and empower youth, parents, community leaders, citizens, schools and youth serving organizations to take specific actions to prevent child sexual abuse,” stated Middleton Police Chief James Digianvittorio.
“In the City of Chelsea where I have been Police Chief for the past 10 years and with the department for the past 30, sexual abuse of children in the family unit is an all too frequent occurrence with the most recent sexual assault reported last night,” stated Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes. “We need to do all we can to be proactive to recognize and prevent this behavior whenever possible. This bill takes one giant step forward in that direction and accomplishing that goal.”
“Y’s know that we cannot be too safe when it comes to preventing a child from the life altering soul shattering consequences of sexual abuse,” said Peter Doliber, Executive Director of the Alliance of Massachusetts YMCAs. “This legislation goes a long way in making our communities safer for children.”
“We urge the Committee’s prompt passage of this bill, so that those who use their positions of authority in public and private schools and youth organizations to sexually abuse youth will be on notice that Massachusetts law will no longer protect, excuse, and provide cover and a defense for them and their sexual crimes against children,” stated Jetta Bernier, Executive Director of MassKids.