RELEASE: Bill to Increase Access to Domestic Violence Services Signed Into Law

AB 689 Will Modernize Hotline Services to Include Text and Chat

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO – Legislation to expand access to domestic violence services, authored by Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, has been signed into law. AB 689 will allow for survivors of domestic violence to seek help via text and other computer-based technologies.

“Domestic Violence touches too many of our lives and harms too many of our families,” said Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, author of AB 689 (D-Laguna Beach). “I have been that 12-year-old girl locked in a bathroom with her mom, hiding from our abuser, so I know that moment of desperation. These additional tools and technologies will give survivors more ways to get help when they desperately need it.”

In California, 34.9% of women and 31.1% of men experience intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner sexual violence and/or intimate partner stalking in their lifetimes according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. In 2019, the National Domestic Violence Hotline documented 29,659 contacts from California, the highest in the nation.

“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.”

The Covid-19 Pandemic has caused a dramatic increase in California’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.

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

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.

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

“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).