SB 145, a California Senate Bill that passed both houses of the legislature and was signed into law by Governor Newsom last week, is a piece of legislation that can open a Pandora's Box when it comes to sexual predators and children.
The new law, which was aimed to equalize the disparity between heterosexual and homosexual penalties for “consensual” statutory rape, is questionable, with the most frightening and troubling aspect of the bill being the fact that a child as young as 14 can have “consensual” sexual relations with someone as old as 24. The law states that if the relationship is “consensual” and there is not an age difference of more than ten years, then the (statutory rape) offender would not be required to register as a sex offender. In other words, by legal definition, “consent” on the part of the victim means that the offender is not a threat to children.
As a man who has spent 30 years of my life protecting women and children from abuse – first as a violent crime detective for a major metropolitan police department, then a domestic violence and violent crime prevention consultant, and lastly a business owner who works with schools, churches, and corporations to keep people safe – I can tell you, without a shadow of a doubt, that this law plays right into the hands of child predators and their well thought-out grooming tactics toward vulnerable kids and adolescents.
Admitingly, California did not claim that having a 24-year-old having sex with a 14-year-old was not a criminal act. The focus of the law is on “consent” and not requiring the perpetrator to register as a sex offender.
The idea of “consent” has long been an interlocutor at the center of abuse of women, as well as girls and boys. As a violent crime detective, I witnessed the perpetrator’s attempt at blaming the victim time and again. And when it comes to sexual abuse and violence, part of the perpetrator’s grooming of the victim is through the development of a relationship to earn their trust. This is especially true of children and adolescent victims who are often groomed by a trusted authority in their life – whether it be a family member, a teacher, a youth leader or pastor, a coach, a neighbor, or a family friend. Let me make this clear, I am not talking about the stereotypical creepy guy parked in his van lurking at children to abduct them. Instead I am referring to the 80% of sexual abuse and violent crime victims who KNOW their abuser.
How does a child of 14 give an adult consent for sex with them? They cannot. Why do many states, including Indiana where my company is headquartered, have laws that criminalize school employees for having sexual relationships with students? It is precisely because consent cannot be freely given to someone who has authority over you. It is not illegal for an 18-year-old to have a sexual relationship with a 22-year-old UNLESS we add in the power relationship of the 22-year-old being a teacher and a person of power and influence.
The state of California wants us to believe that a 14-year-old child can give consent to an adult, no matter who that adult may be. Yet, this goes against everything that psychologists, victim advocates, and violence crime prevention authorities have learned, witnessed, and worked hard to address to help keep women and children safe. This is not a game. As a former violent crime detective, I have seen the destruction of sexual violence. The greatest myth perpetrated about sexual assault is that it is a crime of sex. It is not. It is a crime of power and control. Sexual offenders are master manipulators. I know because I have interviewed them. And I have seen the lives of countless women and children destroyed – victims who were afraid to lose their very lives if they did not give in to the demands of their perpetrator. Why do you think that domestic violence and sexual abuse are so widely under-reported? Because the victim often endures the punishment and harassment of our legal system and society rather than the perpetrator!
If you want a glimpse inside the predatory behavior of a sexual predator, watch the Netflix documentary on Jeffrey Epstein. Witness the skill he used in profiling young women who came from dysfunctional homes, who had extremely low self-worth, who did not have a support structure that would prove to be a barrier or an alert system to his predatory behavior.
We all have a role in protecting children and minors, including the state and national government. And though this new California law is not removing the criminal record of statutory rape, they are removing a critical barrier in protecting minors. By not requiring statutory rape perpetrators to register as a sex offender, a large layer of protection is being removed from schools, churches, volunteer organizations, and youth-specific programs who rely on checking the National Sexual Offender databases, along with other background checks, to keep their kids and youth safe.
I could only have wished that Governor Newsom had heard from the experts – victims, victim advocates, and violence prevention specialists – to get the facts regarding SB 142 before he signed the bill into law. California has opened a dangerous door, and I advise other states to make sure they keep that door closed to protect our children from those whose only intent is to harm.
As a former police officer and detective with the Metro Nashville Police Department, Mike McCarty spent 25 years in the violent crime division/violence prevention program. He is regarded as the nation’s leading expert on violence prevention and is an Advisor to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Mike is CEO of Safe Hiring Solutions, www.safehiringsolutions.com.
He is the author of “Choking in Fear: a Memoir of the Hollandsburg Murders,” which was the basis for a documentary on the Discovery Channel titled “Very Bad Men.”