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Governor signs bill aimed at easing sexual assault victims' access to counseling

Law allows hospitals to call rape crisis center without going through police

A bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown Friday aims to ease the process for sexual assault victims to receive counseling services.

Senate Bill 978, authored by State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), allows medical providers to notify counseling centers when a victim is transported to a hospital for a medical evidentiary exam, if approved by the victim.

Currently, only law enforcement officers can contact counseling centers.

"We have an obligation to help victims as they recover both physically and emotionally," said DeSaulnier, who represents Pleasanton. "I thank Governor Brown for signing SB 978 to help reduce the burdens faced by sexual assault victims, and ease the process for them to get needed counseling services."

Medical providers are victims' first point of contact, according to DeSaulnier. By allowing the hospitals to initiate counseling services for the victim, the bill reaffirms California's commitment to protecting victims' rights, he added.

SB 978 was sponsored by Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley and it had support from law enforcement groups including the California District Attorneys Association and California Police Chiefs Association.

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