December 6, 2005
SEXUAL ABUSE, HARASSMENT, AND ASSAULT
By: Sandra Norman-Eady, Chief Attorney
You asked how the terms “sexual harassment,” “sexual abuse,” and “sexual assault” are used in the Connecticut General Statutes and how they are defined.
We conducted an electronic search of the statutes for the three terms and found that while they all appear numerous times; sexual assault appears more than the other two. The statutory references to these terms fall in six primary areas: employment discrimination and security policies, children and families, criminal law, civil and criminal procedure, and victim services. Sexual harassment is consistently defined, sexual abuse is not defined, and sexual assault is usually defined by a reference to the penal code citation for a specific sexual assault crime. Where the terms are defined, we have included the definitions. The remainder of this report consists of brief summaries of the statutory sections where the terms appear.
State anti-discrimination laws contain two references to sexual harassment. First, the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) can require employers of at least three people to post, in a prominent and accessible location, information concerning the illegality of sexual harassment and remedies available to its victims. CHRO can require employers of 50 or more people to provide sexual harassment training (CGS § 46a-54).
Second, it is a discriminatory practice for an employer, employment agency, labor union, or their agents to harass any employee, potential employee, or member on the basis of sex (CGS § 46a-60(a)(8)).
For the purpose of both sections, “sexual harassment” means any unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors or any conduct of a sexual nature when (1) submission is explicitly or implicitly an employment term or condition, (2) submission or rejection is the basis for employment decisions affecting the person, or (3) the conduct substantially interferes with a person's work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
By law institutions of higher education must maintain security policies and procedures, including procedures for reporting incidents of sexual harassment. “Sexual harassment” has essentially the same meaning as it has under the anti-discrimination laws. The only difference is that it applies to conduct by agents and employees of institutions of higher education and the conduct affects another person's academic success or employment (CGS § 10a-55c).
Children and Families
The law requires people in professions or occupations that have contact with children or whose primary focus is children to report suspected child abuse or neglect. They must make a report when, in the ordinary course of their employment or profession, they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child under age 18 has been abused, neglected, or is placed in imminent risk of serious harm (CGS § 17a-101a). The Department of Children and Families (DCF) commissioner must notify the police within 12 hours after receiving a report of child sexual abuse or assault from a mandated reporter (CGS §§17a-101b(c) and -101j).
The law requires the Department of Social Services' commissioner to adopt regulations that establish criteria for determining good cause or other exceptions, such as evidence of sexual abuse, for refusing to cooperate in paternity proceedings (CGS § 46b-168a).
By law, the Division of Court Support Services must design and make available to the Judicial Department programs and probation treatment services for juvenile offenders. Probation treatment services must address histories of physical or sexual abuse (CGS § 46b-121j).
The statute of limitations for bringing a lawsuit to recover damages for personal injury to a minor, including emotional distress caused by sexual abuse or sexual assault, is 30 years after the date the victim reaches age 18 (CGS § 52-577d). In lawsuits seeking damages for personal injuries to minors, courts cannot order, as part of a judgment or settlement agreement, parties to refrain from disclosing information regarding sexual abuse or assault to the DCF commissioner or law enforcement agencies (CGS § 52-231b).
Statute of Limitations. The statute of limitations for prosecuting any offense involving sexual abuse, sexual assault, or sexual exploitation of a minor is 30 years after the date the victim reaches age 18, or within five years after the date the victim notifies law enforcement of the offense, whichever is earlier (CGS § 54-193a).
Sexual Offender Registration. The Court Support Services Division must work with other experts to develop programs for notifying neighborhoods and municipalities when a registered sexual offender is or will be residing in the community. The programs must help neighborhoods, parents, and children learn to better protect themselves from sexual abuse and sexual assault (CGS § 54-261).
Crimes Involving Sexual Assault. Following are crimes involving sexual assault and their penalties.
A person commits 1st degree sexual assault when he (1) uses or threatens to use force to engage in sexual intercourse (the threat must reasonably cause the victim to fear physical injury), (2) engages in sexual intercourse with someone under age 13 and who is more than two years younger than he, (3) commits 2nd degree sexual assault while aided by two or more other people actually present, or (4) engages in sexual intercourse with someone mentally incapable of consenting (CGS § 53a-70).
Two year mandatory minimum sentence unless the victim is under age 10 in which case the mandatory minimum is 10 years. The penalty is 10 to 25 years in prison, up to a $20,000 fine, or both if (1) force is used and the victim is under age 16 or (2) the victim is under age 13 and the actor is more than two years older. The penalty plus a period of special parole must equal at least 10 years in prison.*^
A person commits 1st degree aggravated sexual assault when he commits 1st degree sexual assault and (1) possesses or represents that he possesses a weapon, (2) intentionally injures the victim, (3) negligently causes the victim serious physical injury, or (4) has help from at least two other people who are present (CGS § 53a-70a).
One to 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $15,000, or both. The penalty is enhanced to 10 to 25 years in prison, up to a $20,000 fine, or both if the victim is under age 16. The mandatory minimum sentence is five years in prison, except if force is used and the victim is under age 16, the mandatory minimum sentence is 20 years in prison. The crime also carries a period of special probation of at least five years.*^
A person commits sexual assault in a spousal or cohabiting relationship when (1) he uses or threatens the use of force to compel his spouse or cohabitor to engage in sexual intercourse and (2) the threat causes the victim to reasonably fear physical injury (CGS § 53a-70b).
One to 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $15,000, or both.^
A person commits 2nd degree sexual assault when he engages in sexual intercourse with (1) a person between ages 13 and 15 and the perpetrator is more than two years older; (2) a mentally incompetent person; (3) a physically helpless person; (4) a minor under his supervision or guardianship; (5) his psychotherapy patient or former patient during sessions, under the guise of therapy, or while the patient is dependent upon him; (6) a person in custody or detained in a hospital and under the actor's authority; (7) a school student and the actor works at the school or for the school board; (8) a minor that he coaches or otherwise instructs; (9) a minor and the actor is a person in a position of power; or (10) someone he tricks into believing that the actor is a health professional and the sexual intercourse is medical treatment (§ 53a-71)
One to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. If the victim is under age 16, the penalty is one to 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $15,000, or both. Nine months of the sentence cannot be suspended or reduced.^
A person commits 3rd degree sexual assault when he (1) uses or threaten to use force against a victim or third person to compel the victim to submit to sexual contact and the threat causes the person to reasonably fear physical injury to himself or the third person or (2) has sexual intercourse with a close relative (§ 53a-72a)
One to 5 years in prison, up to a $5,000 fine or both. If the victim is under age 16, the penalty is one to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.^
A person commits 3rd degree sexual assault with a firearm when he commits 3rd degree sexual assault by use or threatened use of a firearm (§ 53a-72b)
One to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. If the victim is under age 16, the penalty is one to 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $15,000, or both. Two years of the sentence cannot be suspended or reduced. The sentence and a period of special parole must equal 10 years.^
A person commits 4th degree sexual assault when he has sexual contact with (1) someone who is under age 15, mentally incompetent, physically helpless, under age 18 and under his care or supervision, or in custody or detained in a hospital and under his authority or supervision; (2) another person without consent; (3) an animal or deceased person; (4) his psychotherapy patient or former patient during sessions, under the guise of therapy, or while the patient is dependent upon him; (5) a school student and the actor works at the school or for the school board; (6) a minor that he coaches or otherwise instructs; (7) a minor and the actor is a person in a position of power; or (8) someone he tricks into believing that the actor is a health professional and the sexual intercourse is medical treatment (§ 53a-73a)
Up to one year in prison, a $2,000 fine, or both. If the victim is under age 16, the penalty is one to 5 years in prison, up to a $5,000 fine or both.^
A person is guilty of a capital felony if he commits murder during the course of 1st degree sexual assault (CGS § 53a-54b).
Up to life in prison or death.
A person is guilty of felony murder if he kills someone, other tan an accomplice, while committing or fleeing after committing 1s or 3rd degree sexual assault or 1st or 3rd degree sexual assault with a firearm (CGS § 53a-54c).
25 years to life imprisonment, up to a $20,000 fine, or both.
*Anyone who uses a machine gun to commit or attempt to commit this crime is subject to 10 to 20 years in prison (CGS § 53-202).
^ In addition to these fines, courts must impose a fine of $151 to help fund the Sexual Assault Victims Account (CGS § 54-143c).
Persistent Offenders. The law allows courts to increase the sentences of the most dangerous sexual offenders. A “persistent dangerous felony offender” is a person who (1) has just been convicted of, among other crimes, 1st or 3rd degree sexual assault, 1st degree aggravated sexual assault, or 3rd degree sexual assault with a firearm and (2) prior to committing the present crime, was convicted of and imprisoned for any of the same crimes or an attempt to commit these crimes. A court may subject him to a penalty of 40 years to life in prison in lieu of the statutory sentence for the crime he committed.
A “persistent dangerous sexual offender” is a person awaiting sentencing for 1st or 3rd degree sexual assault, 1st degree aggravated sexual assault, or 3rd degree sexual assault with a firearm who has previously been incarcerated for at least one year for a serious felony, including sex offenses. A court may subject him to a sentence of imprisonment and a period of special parole which together constitute a life sentence in lieu of the statutory sentence for the crime he committed.
A “serious sexual offender” is a person awaiting sentencing for fondling a child or 1st or 2nd degree sexual assault who has previously been incarcerated for more than one year for any of those crimes. A court may subject him to a sentence of imprisonment and a period of special parole which together constitute the maximum sentence for the next more serious degree of felony (CGS §§ 53a-40(a-c)).
Psychological Counseling for Sex Offenders. Anyone convicted of assaulting a minor age 10 or less must undergo psychological counseling in addition to any fine or term of imprisonment (CGS § 53a-40c).
Investigations. The Commission on the Standardization of the Collection of Evidence in Sexual Assault Investigations must recommend the protocol for collecting evidence of sexual assault and design sexual assault evidence collection kits. Victims cannot be charged for the cost of examinations performed during the course of an investigation (CGS § 19a-112a).
Rape Shield Statutes. State criminal procedure statutes require the names, telephone numbers, and addresses of sexual assault victims to be kept confidential, except such information must be available to the accused in the same manner and time as such information is available to people accused of other crimes. These statutes also prohibit, in any prosecution for sexual assault, the admissibility of evidence of the victim's prior sexual conduct except when its value as proof outweighs its prejudicial effect on the victim and meets other specified criteria (CGS §§ 53a-86d, -86e, and -86f). Sexual assault victims' names and addresses are not public information and thus not subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (CGS § 1-210 (b)). The law allows a child age 12 or younger who is the victim of abuse or sexual assault to be videotaped rather than having to testify in open court. If the court excludes the defendant, the law requires the court to ensure that the defendant is able to see and hear the child testify and is able to consult privately and at all times with the attorney during the testimony (CGS § 54-86g).
Testimony. The law establishes that a child sexual assault victim is competent to testify without prior qualification (CGS § 54-86h). By law, communications between a sexual assault victim and a battered women's or sexual assault counselor cannot be disclosed in civil, criminal, administrative, or legislative proceedings. But the privilege does not apply when (1) proving chain of custody of evidence or the physical appearance of the victim at the time of the injury or (2) the counselor knows that the victim has given perjured testimony and the defendant or the state has made an offer of proof that perjury may have been committed (CGS § 52-146K).
Polygraph. The law prohibits municipal police, state police officers, or members of the Division of Criminal Justice from requesting or requiring that a sexual assault victim submit to or take a polygraph test (CGS § 54-86j).
Parole. A person convicted of 1st degree aggravated sexual assault is ineligible for parole until he has served at least 85% of his sentence (CGS § 54-125a).
Statute of Limitations. See Sexual Abuse above.
Sexual Offender Registration. See Sexual Abuse above.
Three or more arrests or a court's issuance of three or more arrest warrants for sexual assault committed on the same premises can serve as the basis for bringing an action to abate a public nuisance (CGS § 19a-343). See also Sexual Abuse above.
Sexual assault victims (1) must receive notice from the Office of Victim Services (OVS) of their rights to (a) request the offender's arrest, a protective order, and, if applicable, a restraining order; (b) special procedural considerations during the testimony of a child victim of sexual assault; and (c) have a representative serve on the council that advises OVS on ways to improve victim services; (2) may receive an OVS order for restitution services; and (3) may participate in the secretary of the state's address protection program (CGS §§ 54-203, 54-216, 54-240, -240a, and -240c).
The Department of Public Health (DPH) (1) provides sexual assault victims with HIV and AIDS counseling, HIV-related testing, and referrals for appropriate health care; (2) provides unserved or underserved populations of sexual assault victims wit a 60-day follow up pap tests; and (3) develops HIV and AIDS educational materials as they relate to sexual assault and distributes them to victims. The department receives funds from the Sexual Assault Victims Account for sexual assault crisis services (CGS §§ 19a-112b, -112c, and -112d)
Children and Families
The law seeks to educate families and prevent sexual assaults from occurring. DPH must include strategies for educating the community about sexual assault crimes involving minors in its media campaign to reduce adolescent pregnancies (CGS § 19a-59e).
By law, courts may determine that reasonable efforts to reunite a parent and child are inappropriate based on a party's sexual assault conviction, other than conviction of a crime that resulted in a child's conception (CGS § 17a-111b). A parent's conviction of sexual assault resulting in a child's conception may be a ground for a court to terminate the parent's parental rights (CGS § 45a-717).
The law prohibits an unlicensed child care provider who has been convicted of sexually assaulting a minor from receiving a child care subsidy (CGS § 17b-750). The law requires institution of higher education to annually report the sexual assault crimes committed within the institution's geographic boundaries (CGS § 10a-55a).