In response to increasing rates of domestic violence reports during the COVID-19 pandemic, legislation to expand domestic violence services has received widespread, bipartisan support and is now headed to the Governor’s desk for signature. AB 689, authored by Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, will allow for survivors of domestic violence to seek help via text and other computer-based technologies.
“The ability to access domestic violence hotline services is as serious as life or death,” said Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach). “These additional tools and technologies will give survivors more ways to get help when they desperately need it.”
The Covid-19 Pandemic has caused a dramatic increase in Californian’s already alarming rates of domestic violence. On a typical day before the pandemic, domestic violence hotlines received approximately 13 calls a minute. As a result of the pandemic, the National Domestic Violence Hotline saw a 9% increase in calls, texts and chats—indicating a clear uptick in need.
Under the current California Code, domestic violence centers are under a limited definition of phone-based-hotlines that do not include chat and text. This law also inhibits centers from receiving funding to increase their services and from collecting accurate data about domestic abuse.
By modernizing domestic violence shelter requirements to include other technological platforms, AB 689 allows for domestic violence centers to be better equipped to help more victims of domestic violence. Additionally, the state can collect more accurate data about domestic abuse.
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING
“When survivors are ready to reach out for assistance or information it is vital that they have multiple options for doing so,” said AB 689 Sponsor Beth Hassett, CEO of WEAVE. “Expanding the crisis line service to include texting or live chat gives them more doors for entry into lifesaving services and support.”
“Laura’s House has already implemented a secure chat line platform with secured funding through the State Prevention Funding grant which has proven to be effective as this is the most common mode of communication with our youth and young adult population. The modernized California code to ensure funding and reporting is vital in our ability to provide this improved method of safe contact to assist more victims as we move to a more technology-based society overall,” said Margaret Bayston, CEO and Executive Director of Laura’s House.
“Survivors of domestic violence are often isolated and prevented from reaching out for help,” said Krista Niemczyk, Public Policy Director at the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence. “That’s why chat and text-based hotlines are crucial. They allow survivors to connect with advocates when they cannot safely call a hotline. We are proud to support AB 689 to fund these pathways to safety planning and healing.”
“Individuals experiencing domestic violence may not be able to safely reach out for help through traditional platforms. Expanding access points to include chat and text-based options are key to breaking down barriers to survivor safety and increasing access to vital services,” said Maricela Rios-Faust, CEO of Human Options.
“Initially because of reports in the media of the escalation of IPV incidents both in frequency and severity increased during COVID-19 lockdown orders, we urged Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris an 800 text hotline similar to ones established in other states. However after the Assemblywoman convened a meeting with the various organizations working in this space, it was obvious that CA needs are different. We fully support AB 689 and are thankful for the leadership of Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris in addressing the urgent needs of victims of Intimate Partner Violence,” said Rima Nashashibi, Founder and President, Global Hope 365.
“The pandemic has exposed serious gaps in connecting domestic violence survivors with resources. We need to ensure our policies consider the safest method of communication available to victims reaching out for help. I want to thank Assemblymember Petrie-Norris for introducing AB 689, which will make it easier for survivors to reach out when they need help the most,” said Senator Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) who presented AB 689 on the Senate Floor.
This bill is co-authored by Assemblymembers Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda), Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona), Janet Nguyen (R-Huntington Beach), Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton), Luz Rivas (D-Arleta), Blanca Rubio (D-Baldwin Park), Kelly Seyarto (R-Murrieta) and Senator Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh (R-Yucaipa).