Thursday, March 24, 2011

NJ Attorney General explains legislation to protect people in mental health facilities, nursing homes from sexual assault.

From WDEL radio:

Attorney General Beau Biden takes the wraps off legislation to better protect patients in mental health facilities and nursing homes from sexual assault.

Under state law, it's legally necessary to prove that a patient did NOT consent to sexual activity.

Attorney General Biden says this bill seeks to change that.

"It removes consent as a defense. It makes it illegal for people, who are charged with the care of people in institutions, from having ANY sexual contact with their patients," explains the Attorney General.

The crime is a felony punishable by up to 15 years behind bars.

Biden says by removing consent, they're removing the gray area that's clouded prosecution in the past.

"When that victim goes and says something happened to them, there's a chance that the person won't believe them. The criminal knows their victim's credibility is undermined," says Biden.

The legislation would apply to all health care facilities in the state, including hospitals, nursing homes, and substance abuse and mental health programs.

Biden refused to comment on how many instances of patient abuse may've spawned this legislation, but he says no specific targets are in mind.

The state Attorney General says elderly or disabled Delawareans depend on their caretakers, and this legislation would better ensure their safety.

"They should have the extra protection to know that their loved ones, who are in these institutions, are not susceptible to any sex crime," explains Biden.