Unanimous and Bipartisan Support in the Assembly and Senate
Propel the ACCESS Act to the Governor’s Desk Today
(Sacramento, CA) – In an unusual display of bipartisanship, a bill to fight the commercial sexual exploitation of children passed the Senate today with unanimous support and now moves to the Governor’s desk for approval. AB 12, the Abolition of Child Commerce, Exploitation, and Sexual Slavery Act (the ACCESS Act), would increase the fine against a “John” who engages in commercial sex with a minor to up to $25,000 and would require those fines to be distributed to groups providing support to commercially sexually exploited minors.
“The ACCESS Act attacks child prostitution at its most wicked root – the men who pay to have sex with child prostitutes,” explained author Assemblymember Sandré R. Swanson (D-Alameda). “Some child prostitutes are out on the streets as victims of human trafficking; some are victims of child and sexual abuse; some are victims of abandonment and mental abuse. But they all have one thing in common: they are all children.”
Swanson explains the issue of consent as it relates to statutory rape cases and minors. “Children are unable to consent to sex under any circumstance. Statutory rape law recognizes this and protects children by establishing strict liability against a person engaging in sex with a child, regardless of consent. Persons convicted of statutory rape are subject to harsher fines than ‘Johns.’ AB 12 raises the fines against ‘Johns’ to match the fines assessed against adults in statutory rape cases.”
“Sex with a child is always rape,” emphasized Swanson. “We need to protect all child victims, regardless of whether money was exchanged and regardless of where the abuse takes place. A 12-year old girl on International Boulevard in Oakland should be treated with as much care and sensitivity as a 12-year old girl in an elementary school classroom in the suburbs. AB 12 protects those two victims and punishes their perpetrators in the same manner.”
AB 12 is part of Assemblymember Swanson’s ongoing effort to combat human trafficking. Swanson’s current legislative package includes many measures that attack child exploitation and trafficking. AB 90 would make it possible to prosecute a human trafficker who uses psychological coercion to force a child into prostitution. AB 764 would add a new option to the state income tax form, allowing people to make a voluntary donation to organizations providing services to commercially sexually exploited minors. AB 799, which also passed the Legislature with strong bipartisan support and is currently awaiting the Governor’s signature, would expand and extend an Alameda County diversion program for commercially sexually exploited minors.
During a Senate Public Safety hearing on AB 12, Officer Holly Joshi of the Oakland Police Department, gave compelling testimony about her experiences as an undercover prostitute busting “Johns,” many who were deliberately looking for girls under the age of 18. “Much attention has been paid to the pimps who coerce or force these girls into this lifestyle. But the customers, commonly referred to as ‘Johns,’ are nothing less than sexual predators. After paying pimps to repeatedly rape our kids, they usually return to their lives undetected, unpunished, or with a slap on the wrist from law enforcement, while the victims suffer emotionally and physically, and we, as a society, are left to try and undo everything they’ve done.”
Swanson’s bill addresses the victim’s emotional and rehabilitative support needs mentioned by Officer Joshi. Specifically, the bill provides that the fines collected pursuant to its provisions will be used for organizations engaging in support services for commercially sexually exploited minors.
Support for AB 12 includes the City of Oakland, the California Teachers Association, the California National Organization for Women, Junior Leagues of California, (AFSCME), AFL-CIO, National Association of Social Workers, the Children’s Advocacy Institute, Concerned Women for America, Polaris Project, the California Nurses Association, California Catholic Conference, and Crime Victims United of California, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Californians Against Slavery, and the Child Abuse Prevention Center.
AB 12 passed both houses of the Legislature with bipartisan, unanimous support. The bill now heads to the Governor Brown’s desk for his approval.