Domestic abuse and violence are very serious issues. There are so many things that can go wrong for a victim and many don’t know what to do from a legal position.
Victims of domestic abuse are usually placed in high fear and anxiety situations. Most times, they may not be able to think straight. So, they need a lot of help and advice from experts. Psychotherapists and domestic abuse lawyers must assist them.
But the good news is the law is on the side of victims of domestic violence. New laws recently put in place secure these people’s lives, interests, and well-being.
California pays special attention to domestic abuse and violence issues. And many cases are being treated in criminal courts every year in the Los Angeles area.
Domestic violence lawyers work tirelessly in such cases. They ensure that victims of oppression get all the help they need. They work with the advantages of these new laws to protect people who have suffered abuse. Then, these lawyers ensure they get fair settlement for sexual abuse or any other type of abuse they encounter.
Let us look at these new laws. These rules assist domestic abuse lawyers in serving people who have been the victims of domestic violence.
New Laws Protecting Domestic Abuse Victims
In 2019 and 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed some assembly and senate bills into law. They enhanced the constitutional rights and defense of internal partner violence victims.
These new bills changed the California State Penal Code and the CA Family Code. Also, in 2019, Senate Bill 273 updated the Penal Code. It extended the statutes of limitations allowing victims to file charges against abusers.
Then in 2020, Senate Bill 1141 amended the Domestic Violence Prevention Act (DVPA). It asserted that coercive control amounts to abuse. It can thus serve as a basis for a domestic violence restraining order. It can also evidence domestic violence in child custody decisions.
Let us review these bills further to determine the implications on victims’ benefits.
1. Senate Bill 273 – The Phoenix Act
Senator Susan Rubio brought SB 273 to the Senate on February 13, 2019. It was unanimously received in the Senate and Assembly. Then Governor Newsom signed it into law on October 7, 2019.
The previous law gave a statute of limitations of one year to report an abuse of the misdemeanor level. Felony-level crimes had a limitation of three years for reporting by complainants. They could then take legal action after meeting these conditions.
But with SB 273, prosecutors can get convictions for crimes committed up to five years prior.
The bill gets that domestic abuse and violence victims do not report crimes for many reasons. For example, research showed some factors that prevent victims from speaking up immediately. These include age at the time of the abuse, threats from the perpetrator, trauma, and lack of evidence.
They further argued that victims of domestic violence often live with their abusers. As a result, they often depend on them for finances. Also, having children with their abusers was another reason to consider. These make it challenging for victims to report abuse.
Victims often decide to wait until they can leave their abusers before reporting. They do this to avoid hazardous consequences for themselves and their children.
This bill assists domestic violence victims report abusers quicker. This will mitigate abuse and bring about faster justice.
The Phoenix Act addresses law enforcement response to reports of domestic abuse. It directs enforcers to provide greater security for victims and avert further incidents. Police must practice specific drills to detect indicators of domestic abuse for this. They must also interview the complainant and the accused separately to avoid intimidation. They would use standardized questions and de-escalation procedures in these interviews. And they would need the aid of at least two consultants.
SB 273 involves domestic violence crimes perpetrated on or after January 1, 2020. Furthermore, it affects crimes committed five years before January 1, 2020. So, if someone was arrested for a crime in 2019 but was not charged, they can still be prosecuted until 2024. But this new statute of limitations may not affect cases that exceed five years. In such a case, your circumstances will not change.
2. Senate Bill 1141 – Coercive Control
Senator Susan Rubio later introduced another bill, SB 1141, on February 19, 2020. Like SB 273, the senate and assembly unanimously voted for it. And Governor Newsom signed it into law on September 29, 2020.
This bill is an amendment to Section 6320 of the Family Code. It identifies “coercive control” as a form of disturbing the peace or sanity of another party. One can cite coercive control as evidence of domestic violence in family court. The prosecutor could apply for a domestic violence restraining order on these grounds.
Coercive control is a systematic, continuing behavioral pattern. This way, abusers apply control and intimidation. They also use isolation, humiliation, and violence. These deprive victims of their constitutional rights and liberties.
Physical violence is one way of demonstrating abusive relationships, according to domestic violence experts. Many victims of domestic violence live like hostages in such situations. Yet, these unfortunate circumstances are hardly considered criminal except when done to strangers.
Coercive control is less noticeable than physical abuse. Yet, it undermines victims’ resistance to abuse, trapping and confusing them. As a result, they may think their abuse is not happening or remain in fear long after the relationship has ended.
Reports say that many abusive partners use mental and emotional abuse. These prevent domestic violence victims from leaving. Trauma arises more from psychological mistreatment than physical or sexual abuse.
Coercive control is oppression and particularly unsafe for victims. Moreover, it usually comes before and is indicative of physical violence.
Intimate abusers also abuse by stopping victims from doing valuable things for themselves. This way, abusers take away victims’ freedom.
The following acts listed are acts of coercive control:
- Controlling the victim’s social interactions and movements. And also economic resources or access to necessary services
- Withholding bare necessities to oppress, entrap, and terrorize victims
- Separating victims from sources of support like friends and family
- Intimidating by using force and threats of violence to control victims’ actions
These new laws are set up help victims come out of situations of domestic abuse. And domestic abuse lawyers are using the instrument of these laws. Victims can see their abusers pay for their crimes in Los Angeles or anywhere else within the state.