Opinion New law gives domestic violence victims a better choice AP Photo/Santiago Llanquin Shoes representing female victims of violence are displayed by protesters from the Chilean Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence in Santiago, Thursday, July 30, 2009. By Maricela Rios-Faust | December 6, 2017 at 6:20 pm In the time it takes you to read this sentence, a women in the United States will have been assaulted or beaten. That’s because every nine seconds, a woman is victimized by domestic violence — and every minute, nearly 20 people on average are physically abused by an intimate partner.
How can we provide lifelines to these more than 10 million women and men annually caught in the cycle of abusive relationships? For most, the solution lies in giving them back economic control of their lives.
Survivors say concerns about their ability to provide financially for themselves and their children is among the chief reasons they stay in an abusive relationship or return to an abusive partner. But thanks to new legislation passed in California, victims of domestic violence soon will gain additional economic relief and support.
The progressive Golden State is not immune to the insidious epidemic of domestic violence — but we are taking steps to give victims fleeing abusive relationships an economic stepping stone to a life free from violence. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence estimates that 32.9 percent of California women and 27.3 percent of California men experience intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner sexual violence and/or intimate partner stalking in their lifetimes.
According to National Network to End Domestic Violence, 99 percent of these domestic violence victims have one thing in common: They’re the subject of financial abuse, one of the most powerful means of trapping someone in a dangerous relationship. At Human Options, we see financial abuse occurring across all socio-economic, educational, and racial and ethnic groups. That’s why we applaud any effort to allow victims to break free of the financial shackles that ensnare them.
Signed into law Oct. 12, 2017, Assembly Bill 557 increases economic support for victims fleeing domestic violence through CalWORKs, a state program that gives cash aid and services to eligible needy California families. Authored by Assemblymember Blanca Rubio, D-Baldwin Park, AB557 provides additional CalWORKs protections for survivors impacted by poverty as a result of domestic violence.
The legislation includes immediate temporary housing assistance while a victim’s application to receive longer-term aid is in-process, a move that will help prevent homelessness among Californians escaping domestic violence. We believe the new law will give others the courage to get out by strengthening the support available to victims in crisis, making it easier for them to afford safe housing.
Every day in Orange County, Human Options and other organizations standing with domestic violence survivors work with women and men grappling to make an abominable choice between staying with the person harming them and often, their children, or escaping to another potentially unsafe situation, such as sleeping on the streets or in their cars. AB557 gives these victims another option, a safe passageway to immediate housing and domestic violence resources in a time of crisis.
Of course, AB557 won’t resolve the unthinkable crimes committed or prevent the well-documented physical, mental and economic toll of domestic violence from marring another life. But when AB557 goes into effect July 1, 2018, the women, men and children of Orange County who need help escaping violent environments will not have to fight another barrier standing in the way of their survival.
Until then, however, we urge families affected by domestic violence to seek out Human Options and other domestic violence shelters to access community resources available to them. Our message is simple: You are not alone. We also call upon all Orange County residents to join us in ending domestic violence by learning the warning signs. You can learn about the red flags and how to direct someone you know to community resources by visiting humanoptions.com/resources.
Maricela Rios-Faust is CEO of Human Options.