Bill to Protect Confidentiality in Sexual Assault Cases Approved

RIVERSIDE (CNS) - A Riverside County lawmaker's bill seeking to protect the confidentiality of communications between a sexual assault victim and a crisis counselor on college campuses was unanimously approved today by the state Senate. 

Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes, D-Corona, introduced AB 1896 in January after learning of a lack of specificity in state law concerning the protected nature of communications stemming from alleged sexual assaults. According to Cervantes, because section 1035 of the Evidence Code does not specifically recognize any privileged communication between an assault victim and a crisis counselor on a private or public college campus, it was uncertain whether the conversations could be deemed confidential or open to scrutiny by law enforcement and other entities.

``With increased attention to the alarming issue of sexual assault occurring at college campuses, there is a strong need for sexual assault counselors to provide a safe environment and appropriate assistance for survivors,'' Cervantes said. ``AB 1896 will do so by providing survivors of sexual assault with legal assurances of confidentiality. We must do all that we can to provide survivors with the support they both need and deserve.''The law has always held that rape counselors in designated crisis centers, hospitals and clinics have the ability to communicate in confidence with individuals who come to them seeking assistance or resources following a trauma. 

Cervantes said the definition will now specifically extend to counselors on higher education campuses statewide. The lawmaker cited statistics showing that 11.2 percent of college students across the country, in a given year, report being raped or sexually violated in other ways.AB 1896 now heads to the governor's desk for his signature or veto.

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