Policy Successes and New Laws, 2015-2016

Thanks to advocates and activists all over California, we now have better protections for DV/SA related sick leave and early lease termination, in addition to awesome changes in the U-Visa process for undocumented survivors of abuse. Also, the California education system now has greater ability to hold perpetrators accountable for sexual assault and high school graduates will be better equipped with knowledge on healthy relationships and identifying abuse.

 

Successes and new laws that pertain to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, 2015-2016:

  • Early lease termination protections for survivors of domestic violence, stalking, human trafficking, sexual assault, and elder abuse (AB 418)
    • “If a tenant is in an unsafe living environment, they are able to break the lease with a statement from a counselor or caseworker (previously, the survivor could only request termination of a lease if they filed a police report or obtained a restraining order). [Also] the new law makes it easier to leave by decreasing the survivor’s remaining rent obligation from 30 days… to 14 days.”
  • Improved U-Visa process for immigrants who are survivors of abuse (SB 674)
    • “a U-visa allows immigrant violent crime victims, along with close family members, to apply to live and work in the U.S. if they assist law enforcement in bringing perpetrators to justice.”
    • SB674:
      1. Requires that a U-visa application receive a decision within 90-days (previously, this process could take 2-3 years)
      2. Creates a “presumption of helpfulness” – meaning that the survivor no longer has to prove helpfulness; her or his helpfulness is presumed unless proven otherwise.
      3. Requires agencies to report the number of U-visa requests they received and which were denied and approved in an attempt to increase transparency and highlight potential inequity across jurisdictions.
  • Sexual Harassment & Violence Course for High School Graduation (SB 695):
    • This bill “requires health courses, which are a condition of graduation at a majority of California high schools, to provide instruction on sexual assault, violence and the importance of developing positive, healthy relationships.” The curriculum must include information on the affirmative consent standard established in SB 967, which was signed into law last year (also known as “Yes-Means-Yes”).
  • Strengthening On-Campus Sexual Assault Protections (SB 186):
    • This bill gives UCs, CSUs and California Community Colleges the jurisdiction to remove, suspend, or expel a student for sexual assault or sexual exploitation even if the incident happens off-campus.
  • Protected Sick Leave for absences resulting from DV or SA (SB 579):
    • California Kin Care Law clarifies that absences resulting from domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking are protected sick leave. Also, it expands paid sick leave protections to include providing for parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, and sibling in addition to providing for a parent, child, spouse, or registered domestic partner
  • Increased funding for VOCA, VAWA, and FVPSA
      • Congress passed FY 2016 funding bill with increased amounts for programs authorized by the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and the Family Violence Prevention Services Act (FVPSA).

 

Opportunities for Action:

 

Also see Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s Memorandum on Federal Efforts to Improve the Safety of Domestic Violence Victims 

 

By Lindsay Riedel

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