OAKLAND – During National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, California Attorney General Rob Bonta today held a virtual convening of major private sector law firms and domestic violence service providers operating across California as part of an effort to launch new partnerships and encourage a broader network of available legal assistance. As part of the convening, the Attorney General is urging law firms to work collectively to increase access to pro-bono legal services for survivors of domestic violence across the state.
“Escaping domestic violence is about more than just someone’s willpower,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “Survivors need access to resources. That is a critical part of achieving safety, healing, and independence. We have to work together to make sure victims, survivors, and their families can get the help they need. Whether it’s a restraining order or helping unlock financial assistance, these interventions save lives. I’m incredibly grateful to our partners who have come together to work collaboratively — and with my office — to help better protect the people of California. When people come forward to report abuse, we owe it to them to have the tools in place to address it.”
“Survivors of domestic violence deserve a fair day in court — but too often, they can't afford legal representation, often due to the financial abuse they've experienced,” said Krista Colón, Public Policy Director for the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence. “We are grateful to Attorney General Bonta for highlighting the need for pro-bono legal aid. When a network of culturally responsive and trauma informed attorneys represent survivors’ needs in court, survivors have renewed opportunities for healing and justice.”
In 2020, there were more than 160,000 domestic violence-related calls for assistance in California — and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in four women and nearly one in 10 men have experienced sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime. There are also significant economic costs associated with lost productivity, medical services, criminal justice processes, and more. For instance, the CDC estimates that the cost of intimate partner violence over an individual woman’s lifetime was $103,767. Unfortunately, the conduct of those who commit domestic abuse can often escalate into even more severe forms of abuse and violence, including murder. In fact, a recent study by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions indicated that, in more than two-thirds of mass shootings analyzed between 2014 and 2019, the perpetrator either killed family or intimate partners or the shooter had a history of domestic violence.
It is clear that those escaping domestic violence need legal support, in addition to a variety of other services, in order to achieve safety, healing, and independence. Survivors often have critical legal needs, such as obtaining domestic violence restraining orders, child custody orders, or immigration assistance, which must be addressed in order for the survivor to live safely and find stability. Some California domestic violence service providers have in-house legal support, while others use a network of legal aid organizations and pro-bono attorneys. Nonetheless, service providers often struggle to find legal representation for their clients — and survivors are typically at a disadvantage when representing themselves. With these issues in mind, the Attorney General and staff from the California Department of Justice have participated in listening sessions and tours with service providers across California. Today’s virtual convening is one part of the Attorney General’s efforts to increase support for victims, survivors, and their families across California.
Attorney General Bonta is committed to protecting the rights of those impacted by crime across the state. Earlier this week, the Attorney General issued guidance to assist service providers and members of the public in understanding the resources available through the California Department of Justice’s Victims’ Services Unit. On National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, he urged businesses and members of the public to use resources available at the California Department of Justice to help combat human trafficking. Last year, during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Attorney General Bonta highlighted important information for individuals fearing for the safety of themselves or those around them to be able to obtain restraining orders. In July, he launched the Office of Community Awareness, Response, and Engagement to directly engage with and respond to the needs of communities and organizations across California. Prior to that, the Attorney General unveiled new reports and guidance to help the public and law enforcement better understand and address hate crimes. Attorney General Bonta also formally launched new regional Human Trafficking and Sexual Predator Apprehension Teams as part of the effort to support law enforcement partners in disrupting and dismantling human trafficking and the criminal exploitation of children.
General information on resources from the California Department of Justice around sexual assault and violence is available here.