On Tuesday, March 12, a 17-year-old girl went to authorities to report that she had been the alleged victim of sexual assault by her driving instructor. According to her report, the suspect had been hired last June to give her six driving lessons. The first four proceeded without incident, though during the final two lessons, the girl claimed to have been sexually assaulted by her instructor.
As law enforcement investigated the claim, they learned that the instructor, T.M. Lam, was a registered sex offender who, while acting as a driving instructor, had been previously arrested for annoying or molesting a minor in 2014. The suspect was arrested and booked at the LASD Walnut Station on suspicion of sexually assaulting a minor. After his arrest, he was released after posting $140,000 bail.
The suspect’s original crime, which occurred in 2014, is covered under California Penal Code 647.6 PC and is described as annoying or molesting a child under the age of 18. For the purposes of PC 647.6, the terms “annoying” and “molesting” mean the same thing, and refer to conduct which is motivated by sexual interest in a child, or children in general, and which is likely to irritate, disturb, or be observed by a child or children.
Under 647.6 PC, a suspect does not actually have to make any physical contact with a child or minor in order to be charged with a crime, and words alone may constitute annoying or molesting a child.
Minors can be victims of sexual assault no matter what their age. Knowing who should and should not be trusted around your children can be difficult, as many would-be child predators like to place themselves in positions of trust, such as clergy, school teachers, and even law enforcement.
One of the best ways to help keep your child safe from harm is to be involved in their lives. Ask your kids what they did during the day and with whom. If your child participates in sports or other activities, get to know the adults who will be around – particularly the parents of your child’s friends. When choosing caregivers, always screen them carefully. Be sure to educate your children on the grounds of what is and is not permissible behavior, and teach them to come to you if they feel something is wrong.
Finally, for parents, know the warning signs of child sexual abuse, and be aware of any changes in your child’s behavior or demeanor – no matter how small.