JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT CONCERNING THE SEXUAL ASSAULT OF PERSONS WHOSE ABILITY TO COMMUNICATE LACK OF CONSENT IS SUBSTANTIALLY IMPAIRED.
Joint Favorable Substitute
SPONSORS OF BILL:
REASONS FOR BILL:
This bill addresses court rulings in recent years in cases involving the sexual assault of individuals whose ability to communicate is substantially impaired due to mental or physical disability or advanced age. This bill would afford greater protection to those unable to protect themselves from sexual assault.
Substitute language, as found in LCO #2984, is based on the Chief State's Attorney's language and changes the term “mental disability or disease” to “mental disability,” which is used in several sections of the statutes.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
Division of Criminal Justice: Supports this bill and further requests the Committee's indulgence and assistance in crafting final language of the bill, which has been addressed in the substitute language. The Division requests this as part of their 2012 Legislative Recommendations to address recent court rulings. These cases included State v. Fourtin, which found that despite the overwhelming nature of the victim's disability, the Appellate Court found evidence that the victim was not physically helpless. Additionally, in State v. Anonymous, the defendant was acquitted after sexually assaulting a woman with Down Syndrome. This bill would address problems identified in these recent cases and would afford greater protection to those unable to protect themselves from sexual assault.
State Of CT Council On Developmental Disabilities- Frank Reed: Supports this bill as the Chair of the CT Council on Developmental Disabilities. This bill provides more safeguards to people with disabilities who are physically challenged in communicating consent to sexual intercourse when the attacker knows about the victim's inability or challenge in communicating their consent to sexual intercourse. The current law regarding physical helplessness does not take into account many types of impairments which impede a person with a disability's ability to process, react, and communicate their consent in the same time frame that people without disabilities can.
State Of CT Office Of Protection And Advocacy For Persons With Disabilities- Gretchen Knauff: Supports this bill. The proposed changes would address practical problems that have arisen in pursuing prosecution of individuals who sexually assaulted people with disabilities. This bill deletes obsolete references in current statute to victims who are 'mentally defective” or “physically helpless” – terms which both offend and have been proven inadequate. While the Office supports this bill, they urge avoiding the creation of any statutory presumptions to the effect that people with significant disabilities are categorically incapable of engaging in truly consensual sexual relations. The current language, however, does not create such a presumption.
State of CT Office of Victim Advocate- Michelle Cruz: Supports this bill. This proposal attempts to clarify that sexual intercourse or sexual contact with a person whose ability to communicate lack of consent to such sexual activity is substantially impaired because of a mental or physical condition. Although the OVA supports this bill, they strongly encourage the Committee to seek the advice and recommendations of prosecutors to ensure that the proposal does not unduly limit the prosecutors' ability to seek a prosecution in appropriate criminal matters, which has been addressed in the substitute language.
Permanent Commission On The Status Of Women: Supports this bill. It provides protections against sexual assault for individuals whose ability to communicate is substantially impaired by a mental or physical condition. The PCSW supports all efforts to provide the necessary protections for this vulnerable population.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
HARC- Andrea Barton Reeves: HARC supports this bill but asks the Committee to reconsider some of the language which, as currently proposed, may criminalize consensual contact between two people with intellectual and related disabilities. HARC commends this committee on its efforts to avoid an outcome similar to State v. Fourtin but urges the committee to consider how the proposed language may adversely affect those it is designed to protect. Those with intellectual disabilities experience the same range of human emotion and needs as everyone else and should feel free to do so without fear of prosecution.
CONN SACS: Anna Doroghazi: Ms. Doroghazi is the Director of Public Policy and Communication for Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services (CONNSACS), which is the statewide association of Connecticut's nine community-based rape crisis programs. Current law uses language that is offensive and problematic due to its absolute nature. By addressing only the most extreme physical and mental disabilities, the statutes do not offer sufficient protection to people with disabilities, as illustrated by State v. Fourtin. People with disabilities face the highest rates of sexual victimization of any population in our country and therefore must have reasonable protections. These protections are strengthened with this bill.
Rape Crisis Center- Cynthia Dugan: Ms. Dugan is a counselor/advocate for the Rape Crisis Center of Milford, Inc. and she feels it is imperative that laws are structured to offer protection for those victims already facing the difficulty of dealing with and reporting incidents of sexual assault. People with disabilities are one of the most vulnerable groups of people of sexual assault and this bill will close a loophole in our current statute that has allowed offenders to abuse individuals whose ability to consent is impaired while not creating any statutory presumptions that people with disabilities are completely incapable of making a decision to engage in consensual sexual relations. All victims of sexual assault deserve protection under the law and this piece of legislation helps those must vulnerable members of our society.
The Arc CT- Leslie Simoes: Just as any human being does, a person with a disability who can not traditionally communicate has the right to decide who does and who does not have permission to put their hands on his or her body. This bill reinforces that right, strengthens protections and increase the likelihood of a sexual assault conviction for those who victimize persons with disabilities.
Mary Ann Langton: Ms. Langton feels this bill is essential to people with disabilities by permitting additional safeguards. She is disabled and has been abused but was fortunate enough to fight off her attacker. She and others would feel more secure with the passing of this bill, which gives better protection to rights of women with disabilities.
Susan B. Anthony Project- Mary Delucia: Ms. Delucia is the sexual assault advocate at the Susan B. Anthony Project, which is a crisis counseling and advocacy center for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. Because of the nature of sexual assault being a crime where the offender needs to take away their victim's power and control away from them, all victims are “physically helpless” in that they are afraid to fight their attacker. By passing this bill we can help stop victim blaming and empower them to have the strength to come forward and report the crime. We need to acknowledge that victims of sexual violence do what they need to do in order to survive the assault.
Mary Louise Reardon: Ms. Reardon supports this bill but requests an addition that allows any superintendent of a CT public school and any Board of Education member be given the legal power to remove a student while that student is under investigation for sexual assault in order to create a safer environment in which victims can enjoy while attending school.
Robert James Payne: As an individual with a disability and a victim of sexual assault, Mr. Payne supports this bill because his situation was not one where being powerless was at issue but he was victimized nonetheless. This bill would be applicable to those situations where the victim may not know what is going on or that it is wrong and although they do not consent, they might also not express lack of consent due to their disability.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Reported by: Henry Rowland
Date: April 4, 2012