RELEASE: Legislation to Modernize Domestic Violence Hotline Services Passes First Committee

AB 689 Will Authorize Text & Computer-based Technologies

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO– In response to increasing rates of domestic violence reports during the COVID-19 pandemic, Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris introduced AB 689 which will support the expansion of domestic violence crisis hotline services to include computer chat and phone text platforms. This bill passed the Assembly’s Public Safety committee with unanimous support.

“The stay-at-home order has had a side effect of trapping victims of domestic violence at home with their abusers,” said Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach). “This alarming spike in domestic violence cases has highlighted the need for additional methods for seeking help. Text and chat options will expand access and safety for individuals experiencing violence at home.” 

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 demand.

“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.

The current requirement for domestic violence centers is limited in its definition to phone-based hotlines. Due to this narrow definition, domestic violence centers who want to provide other types of hotline services are unable receive state funding to expand such services.

“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.”

By modernizing domestic violence shelter requirements to include the option of other technological platforms, AB 689 allows for domestic violence centers to be better equipped to help more victims of domestic violence. Additionally, the state will be better able to track and collect more accurate data about domestic abuse.

This bill is co-authored by Assemblymembers Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona), Janet Nguyen (R-Huntington Beach), Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton), Luz Rivas (D-Arleta) and Blanca Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) and Senator Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh (R-Yucaipa).

AB 689 will be heard later this Spring in the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee.