AB 1497 (Justice for Survivors Act), an action-oriented alternative to criminalizing survivors, moves forward
Survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking, sexual violence, or other forms of violence are one step closer to accessing legal remedies they previously haven’t had access to in California.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 27, 2023
Press Contact: Megan Tanahashi: firstname.lastname@example.org | (916) 800-4856
Any survivor in need of assistance should contact their local domestic violence program (see CPEDV.org for locations) or the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1800-799-7233) for 24/7 free, confidential support.
SACRAMENTO — This week, a new state bill — which would allow access to healing opportunities and legal remedies for survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking, sexual violence, or other forms of violence who are often criminalized by California’s legal system — passed through the Public Safety committee.
AB 1497, was recently introduced by Assemblymember Matt Haney and is supported by a broad coalition of survivors, victim advocates, and legal experts who are calling it the Justice for Survivors Act. The Assembly Bill has garnered attention as a step towards equity, including in an exclusive with the Los Angeles Times.
Under the Justice for Survivors Act, all survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking, and sexual violence have access to legal processes known as “vacatur” and “affirmative defense.” Survivors will be given the opportunity to have their stories and experiences heard by the courts when they are part of criminal cases. Courts will be required to consider the experiences of survivors throughout the court process, including during sentencing.
“Every Californian deserves the opportunity to live a life free of trauma and violence – and receive protection, healing, and care when they are victims of violence in their homes and communities,” said Asm. Haney. “When survivors – often Black and brown women, youth, queer, or transgender individuals – are funneled into our criminal legal system, they deserve a chance for their experiences to be heard during legal proceedings as well as a chance to rebuild their lives.”
The Justice for Survivors Act builds on the success of 2021’s AB 124 (Kamlager) by allowing courts to consider the experiences of survivors of trauma, domestic violence, sexual violence, and human trafficking throughout legal proceedings in all cases.
“AB 1497 will finally allow me the opportunity to have my voice and experience as a survivor of violence acknowledged and considered in the court process,” said Adrianna Griffith, a survivor and advocate for the Justice for Survivors Coalition. “I will finally be able to apply for vacatur and remove the thing that constantly reminds me of the person who exploited and abused me. I will no longer have to explain my abuse and trauma when applying for housing or employment. I can simply live freely for the first time in a long time.”
“It’s simply time to ensure all victims of violence have the opportunity to share their stories in the court process when they are charged with crimes, and have access legal pathways that can open up housing, food and education opportunities,” said Kate Walker Brown, Senior Director of the Collaborative Responses to Commercial Sexual Exploitation Initiative with the National Center for Youth Law. “By supporting AB 1497, California policymakers can ensure that no victim of sexual and gender-based violence is blocked from the opportunity to introduce evidence of their victimization in the court process, and that the violent trauma they experienced is not used against them or ignored in the state’s legal system.”
“We know that the vast majority of people accused or convicted of a crime were themselves previously victimized,” said Tinisch Hollins, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice. “In order to break the cycle of violence and harm once and for all, it is critical that the experiences and voices of all survivors of violence be heard and taken into account during legal proceedings. Far too often, survivors of violence involved in criminal cases are not provided the protections and remedies they need during court processes, and too many times we see a survivor’s trauma be either ignored completely or used against them during legal proceedings. It is urgent that we expand protections so that all survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking, and other violence have the chance to rebuild their lives and access the resources they need to heal from their trauma.”
Assemblymember Haney introduced AB 1497 in partnership with survivors and allied organizers/advocates from the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, California Partnership to End Domestic Violence, Californians for Safety and Justice, Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, Free to Thrive, National Center for Youth Law, Rainbow Services, Ltd, San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, Sister Warriors Freedom Coalition, and Survived & Punished. Co-authors include Senator Skinner, Senator Scott Wiener, Assemblymember Wilson, Assemblymember Isaac Bryan and Assemblymember McCarty
About the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence:
The California Partnership to End Domestic Violence (the Partnership) is California’s recognized domestic violence coalition, representing over 1,000 survivors, advocates, organizations and allied individuals across the state. Working at the local, state, and national levels for nearly 40 years, the Partnership has a long track record of successfully passing over 200 pieces of legislation on behalf of domestic violence victims and their children. The Partnership believes that by collectively working with our diverse membership, advocates, and state policy makers, we can deepen the process of healing and restoration by identifying and addressing the underlying and contributing factors. It is through our shared expertise in creating system-wide change by way of our public policy, prevention, communications, and capacity building programs that we are able to support and invest in survivors and families and endeavor to end domestic violence. Every day we inspire, inform and connect all those concerned with this issue, because we believe that together, we’re stronger. With offices in Sacramento, the Partnership’s member programs span the entire state. For more information, visit cpedv.org.