Since this law became effective January 1, 2015, I wanted to provide some materials to generate discussion and to inform. The main concern over this new law is that it is not specific enough. For example, some say it doesn't make enough distinction between those with the pedophilic behavior of viewing child porn and who are at high risk of acting on those sexually abusive fantasies and teenagers who use social media to send sexually explicit images of themselves. Others say viewing of porn does not necessarily lead to child molestation and that this law equates the two.
Below you will find a statement by CAMFT, a petition to CAMFT, an appeal which has been filed with the court to put a stay on the law, some links to articles about the law, some links to articles arguing that viewing child pornography is linked to molestation as well as others which dispute this, and some articles reviewing the claims, related diagnoses, and research results. I hope this helps to begin your own research and discussion on this important issue and controversial law.
CAMFT Legislative Update in October 2014 states:
AB 1775 (Melendez): CAMFT receives many member calls asking whether the downloading or Internet viewing of child pornography is considered child abuse and, as such, would require a therapist to file a mandated report. Penal Code § 11165.1 does not specifically include Internet usage of child pornography within the definition of “sexual exploitation.” Since the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act was written before the prolific use of the Internet, the terminology does not reflect modern technology. This bill would include knowingly “downloading, streaming or accessing through any electronic or digital media…” as a mandatory report in addition to duplicating and printing.
This bill, after receiving no “No” votes, was signed by the Governor. The bill was supported by the California Psychological Association, California Association of Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors, Board of Behavioral Sciences, Child Abuse Prevention Center, California District Attorneys’ Association, and the California State Sheriffs’ Association.
For more information from CAMFT regarding reporting requirements, see: http://www.camft.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Advocacy1&Template=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=18241
Stop AB 1775.com is gathering signatures for a petition to CAMFT to pursue revising the text of the law, among other demands. The following statements are from their analysis of the bill on their website at: http://stopab1775.org/read-text-ab1775/:
The language of AB1775 updates this law [existing child abuse reporting law] as follows: “sexual exploitation includes downloading, streaming, or accessing through any electronic or digital media in which a child is engaged in an act of obscene sexual conduct.”
Meanwhile, Penal code 11165, subsection 311.4 defines obscene sexual conduct as, among other things, “exhibition of the genitals for the purpose of sexual stimulation of the viewer,” as well as lewd and lascivious acts, which are further defined in subsection 288.2 as that which depicts touching intimate parts of the body, including “buttocks of a person and the breasts of a female.”
The law further removes the need to observe an “identifiable victim,” as is typically required by social service investigators. Thus, the idea is not to protect victims per se, but rather to capture those who view obscene material, and incorporate therapists as informants.
In an opinion in the Washington Post by Leslie C. Bell, she concludes the following re AB 1775:
On the face of it, the amendment may seem like a helpful addition to the reporting mandates for psychotherapists and psychiatrists. Child pornography is, after all, a damaging and illegal practice. As a society we surely want to decrease its production, distribution and consumption.
On closer inspection, however, the law falls short on three fronts: First, it will not protect children from either the production or distribution of child pornography, which is its intent. Second, it violates therapist-patient confidentiality and decreases the likelihood that people will get the psychological help they need to stop accessing child pornography; if the goal is to undercut production by reducing demand, the law will likely have the opposite effect. And, third, it conflates desire with action.
For other related articles on Stop AB 1775's website expressing concern about the expansion of reporting requirements and incursions on patient confidentiality represented by this law, see:
A Petition for Writ of Prohibitory Mandate Request for Immediate Stay of A.B. 1775’s Amendment of Penal Code 11165.1 SubD (C) has been filed with the appellate court appealing the law on the grounds of unconstitutionality and violation of patients’ right to privacy. You can find the writ at:
Links to articles and studies:
Janine Murray, MFT
President, Inland-Empire CAMFT
As the editor of the newsletter and a therapist who has worked with both victims and youthful sexual offenders, I have another perspective I would like to add to the discussion of AB 1775. I too am very concerned, as others have expressed, about the impact of reporting requirements which put therapists in the position of being informants and require reporting behavior that does not directly involve an identifiable victim and which could deleteriously affect the therapeutic relationship.
The most dangerous aspect of this in my mind is equating the viewing of child pornography with direct sexual abuse of a child because it reverses a core therapeutic precept as well as muddies legal precedent that draws a distinction between desire and action. In addition, it subverts the therapeutic process itself by turning the therapist into a kind of thought police enforcer rather than the elicitor of thoughts, feelings, fantasies etc. in order to identify issues and behaviors that need to be addressed therapeutically. Though viewing child pornography is a criminal behavior (rather than a thought) that must be dealt with in therapy, it is not direct abuse of a known victim and conflating the two obfuscates what should be a clear separation.
What is of even more concern to me, however, is how this law may sweep up victims of sexual abuse in its zeal to identify and report those who view child pornography. A teen who may be being pressured by a boyfriend or peers to send explicit pictures of herself, teens sexting one another, or a trafficking victim being coerced into advertising on a website, could also be reported, criminalized, and stigmatized as offenders, an outrageously unjust and injurious possible outcome of a poorly-written law.
I want to also point out that though identifying the victims of child pornography is the role of law enforcement and would not be known to the casual viewer and certainly not to a therapist to whom a client might divulge such viewing, there are always children who are victimized when we are talking about the production and dissemination of child pornography (excluding sexting between peers), not only in the original production of the material but who are re-victimized in the viewing of it.
We must recognize the role of sexist culture which objectifies and commodifies girls and women and sexualizes ever younger children in its attempt to sell sex with its resultant psychological and emotional injury. The shameful tendency by law enforcement to re-victimize rape victims, victims of domestic violence, prosecute prostitutes rather than going after their johns, failing to see teen prostitutes as trafficking victims, etc. is something which could easily be replicated in the enforcement of this law, and I find this very worrisome indeed as it would reinforce this overarching cultural problem and core cause of child sexual abuse. In its poorly-conceived attempt to protect victims, it could do precisely the opposite, the worst possible outcome.
Carol A. Bouldin, LMFT
We are very interested in your opinions and feedback. This law (AB1775) has been added to the topics on the forum on the website under “CAMFT-related Topics:” http://ie-camft.org/page-1678055 Please weigh in and comment.