Many people gather behind Sen. Susan Rubio, who is speaking at a podium at the state Capitol.

Recent Policy Reforms May Help California Domestic Violence Survivors Stay Housed

Domestic violence survivors in the Golden State are getting some help in the form of recent regulatory reforms. That includes one policy that prohibits some landlords from rejecting housing applicants based on their credit histories, which often suffer in abusive situations.

But more big fixes are needed, a UCSF report notes, like additional domestic violence shelters and better coordination of shelter and social service intake systems. Many women find today’s homeless shelter settings unsafe, so they opt to sleep on the streets after they leave an abusive partner.

Exterior image of the California State Capitol building in Sacramento. Taken from a corner of the building at a low angle, the cream colored facade features columned entrances on each side, with the building's stately dome appearing toward the top of the frame. The building is surrounded by lush green landscaping.

Electronic Recording in Family Courts Fails to Advance in California Legislature

A bill that would have allowed low-income domestic violence survivors to leave family court with recordings of their hearings so they could enforce court orders or appeal decisions died in the California Legislature last week, thanks to fierce pushback from labor groups representing certified court reporters.

The Senate Appropriations Committee did not call Senate Bill 662 for a vote before a procedural deadline last Friday, effectively killing it. Introduced by Sen. Susan Rubio, Democrat of Baldwin Park, the bill would have lifted the state’s ban on electronic recording in civil family, juvenile justice and dependency cases, making it an option when court reporters were unavailable.

Ink drawing of a stenotype machine with hands disappearing

California’s Court Reporter Shortage Limits Access to Justice in Domestic Violence Cases

Advocates for women’s and children’s rights say providing free or low-cost access to transcripts in hearings is key to equal justice. Unlike many states, California has in recent years repeatedly failed to guarantee adequate documentations of court proceedings, putting victims of domestic violence at a distinct legal disadvantage.

Despite failing for years to make transcripts standard practice, the Legislature may be headed for a breakthrough.

A woman with long brown hair wearing a black blouse and a light colored jacket smiles facing the camera.

California Could Allow Electronic Recording in Civil and Family Court, Helping Poor Litigants

State Sen. Susan Rubio has introduced a bill that would allow California’s 58 trial courts to digitally record civil and family law cases, a controversial effort to address statewide courtroom staffing shortages that deprive low-income litigants of official court transcripts. Court reporters provide verbatim documentation of proceedings that are critical to filing appeals, reviewing judges’ behavior and reading back proceedings to jurors.

The entrance to Los Angeles Superior Court's Stanley Mosk Courthouse is shown, with three robed stone figures above the doorway.

‘I Was Not Allowed to Have My Own Thoughts’: California Courts Start Penalizing Psychological Domestic Abuse

While not all California judges are sympathetic to the stories of intimate partners who claim emotional abuse, and some even exhibit misogynistic conduct, others have shown an interest in using new legal tools to give the benefit of the doubt to people who say they are victims.

In a Los Angeles-area case, a judge acknowledged the evolving understanding of domestic violence to include psychological abuse, and extensively cited the state’s new coercive control law in his ruling.

A white woman with blond hair stands on a lawn in front of the water, with a city skyline in the background.

Expanding View of Domestic Violence Gives Survivors New Tool, but Unsympathetic Judges Remain an Obstacle

A California law enacted in 2021 allows domestic violence victims to claim coercive control — a broad range of behaviors including humiliation, surveillance, intimidation, gaslighting and isolation that strips an intimate partner of a sense of autonomy and personhood.

Experts in domestic violence say judicial skepticism of abuse victims, often with misogynistic overtones, has long been widespread in U.S. family court, creating dangerous hurdles to justice. The expanded conception of domestic violence on paper is of limited use if judges continue to cast a skeptical eye on testimony, usually from women, of manipulation within intimate relationships.

A woman facing away from the camera cleans a stovetop and range.

How California’s Coercive Control Law Could Help Women Manipulated by Partners

Blanca suffered decades of psychological abuse from her husband, whose behaviors fall under a category of abuse sociologists and family law experts call coercive control.

Under a California law passed in 2020, the government is finally offering some acknowledgment of the harm she experienced. But the reform applies only in civil court — and can be used only in limited types of cases.


How an infamous Berkeley human trafficking case fueled reform

Advocates for increased prison terms say 10-year-old sex trafficking case changed conversation
This special report appeared in the Spring 2012 print edition of the San Francisco Public Press. (Read in Spanish at La Opiñon/Impremedia. Leer en español en La Opiñon/Impremedia.)
Lakireddy Balireddy shocked the Bay Area a decade ago when investigators discovered how the Berkeley landlord transported young women and girls from India for sex. He served eight years in prison. His case still inspires reformers who want to put human traffickers away for longer.This year’s campaign to get tougher anti-trafficking laws on the November ballot as a voter initiative is the latest attempt to deal with what proponents call the unfinished business of legal reform.