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Long IslandPolitics

Mandate for sex offenders, victims to be counseled separately

State Senator Phil Boyle is shown in this

State Senator Phil Boyle is shown in this undated photo. Boyle sponsored a bill that would separate sexual assault victims and sex offenders in group therapy and counseling sessions. Photo Credit: Handout

ALBANY -- Sexual-assault victims and sex offenders too often find themselves in the same group therapy and counseling sessions, Long Island lawmakers and a leading activist said Monday.

Though such groupings aren't intentional, the situation can pose danger for victims or leave them "retraumatized." Long Island lawmakers are sponsoring a bill that prevents sex offenders from being placed in group sessions that include sexual-assault victims.

"A commonsense proposal like this, you wouldn't think needs a law," Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore), one of the bill's sponsors, said at a State Capitol news conference. "But that's what's going on, so we need to pass" the proposal.

A Deer Park counselor said she has "witnessed firsthand" the situation lawmakers are trying to address. Robin Roberts, a licensed social worker, said that although the evidence is anecdotal, it's not an uncommon occurrence as more sex offenders are directed into treatment programs.

Roberts said that sometimes the situation occurs because victims and offenders are both attending substance-abuse counseling.

"We don't put sexual predators next to schools. We don't put them next to day-care centers," Assemb. Andrew Raia (R-East Northport) said. "So why on Earth would we put them in a setting where [victims] are trying to recover and heal?"

Boyle said he knows of no opposition to the measure, but said the issue hadn't been addressed yet because it has "flown below the radar." He said the measure could force some mental-health programs to offer more group-therapy sessions but the cost should be minimal.

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