Gallagher introduces bill to protect victims of sexual violence

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Assemblyman James Gallagher introduced a bill on Thursday that would safeguard victims of sexual violence from reliving their trauma in Sexual Violent Predator Act (SVPA) probable cause hearings.  

“Victims of sexual violence suffer every day from the impacts of their assault,” said Gallaher, in a statement. “We must protect the victims of these heinous crimes from reliving their traumatic experience.” 

The SVPA was designed to accomplish the dual goals of protecting the public from sexual offenders likely to reoffend and providing mental health services to those offenders. Within the SVPA, a probable cause hearing must occur to see if the person meets the criteria for these services.

Prior to a recent court case, a mental health expert could testify in SVPA probable cause hearings. Now, the court ruling no longer allows expert testimony and therefore coerces victims and witnesses to testify in both the jury trial and SVP probable cause hearings.

Assembly Bill 1983, if passed, would insulate victims and witnesses from having to relive their trauma twice in court by allowing a mental health expert to testify at the initial probable cause hearing. 

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 81 percent of female victims and 35 percent of male victims report significant impacts on their mental health including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from sexual violence, Gallagher noted. ■