Commentary on AB 1775

13 Feb 2015 8:44 PM | Carol A. Bouldin (Administrator)

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.

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