So the dialogue continues on the new law AB1775, the surreptitious addendum (from the POV of therapists and others who will actually have to follow it) to the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act, which decrees that “certain persons” who fail to report to police or a department of social services those who “access, stream, or download through electronic or digital media (material) which depicts a child engaged in obscene sexual conduct” are committing a misdemeanor. Obscene sexual conduct is defined in California Penal Codes 311.2, 311.3, 311.4, and 288.2, among others, and refers to various sexual acts, including the broadly termed “lewd and lascivious acts”, which is in turn defined as that which touches intimate parts of the body (sexual organs, buttocks, breasts of a female) and is “intended to arouse, gratify the lust of another”.
Most of those chiming in on my association list-serve are commenting on the absurdities of this law, pointing out (rightly) that this law will disrupt therapeutic episodes, ruin the lives of people unnecessarily, while doing little to prevent the proliferation of child pornography–the supposed purpose of the bill. The most ardent of critics argue that advocates of the bill lack compassion for those who struggle with porn addiction. Their opponents respond, without apology, that critics are supporting the wrong people (versus victims of child sexual abuse) while delivering motivational harangues about the scope and seriousness of the child porn problem. We are informed of cults, divisions of government–the CIA–who are perpetrating ritual sexual abuse of thousands of children; recruiting children for an army of sex…anyway, something like that. Advocates of AB1775 employ the logic of demagogues: in the 50s they would have justified blacklisting suspected communists by pointing out how many people Joseph Stalin was killing.
I think the issue is not so much one of compassion as common sense. Despite three months of asking, advocates of the bill are yet to give a sensible answer as to how the reporting and subsequent persecution of individuals viewing obscene material will stop those who produce the material. We are told isolated anecdotes of hard drives confiscated, images discovered, and through those images, the locations of victimized children are determined. Really? I wonder how many times this sort of intervention has occurred, and who gave the tip-off(s), which begs the question, why do authorities need therapists to provide the tips. And does it occur to anyone governing sex offender treatment that if someone is referred to said on the back of an episode in which a mental health professional tipped off police about child pornography use, why should such an individual thereafter trust the therapeutic process?
In deference to my esteemed colleague and crusader against ritual abuse, I declare that I’d actually be happy to report the CIA for sexual abuse to my local offices of Child and Family Services, though I don’t suppose the investigation would get very far. Meanwhile, I should get back to my office and prepare for some sessions with adolescents (wrong people) who present with more commonplace habits. You see, I need to explain to them the new law. I need to explain that the law specifies “child” as a minor, and so if they look at pornographic material depicting persons of their age group, I have to report them to authorities. However, if they look at a pornographic image of someone ten years older, then it’s all good. Also, I must warn that if they insist on sending pictures of their junk, breasts, zits on inner thighs and so on, then I might have to report that behavior also. Welcome to the new world order. I hope their generation is smarter. I doubt it.