Over the past few weeks, a multitude of bills regarding sexual violence passed Governor Jerry Brown’s desk. Included is a summary of legislation that CALCASA had been tracking leading up to the end of September. For those of us working to end sexual violence, knowing and understanding how these new policies affect our communities, and directly affects survivors is important to addressing new opportunities and challenges in our movement. For instance, while legislation that addresses issues of sexual assault is assumed to lead in the right direction, there has been a growing discussion of its unintended consequences and unforeseen implications.
Many of the Assembly and Senate bills proposed and chaptered this year were crafted with positive intentions and efforts to address sexual violence. While this remains true, individuals like U.S. Senate Candidate Loretta Sanchez and organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have protested policies like AB 2888, which implements mandatory sentencing for crimes of sexual assault, claiming it poses negative implications for communities, families, and survivors. An article released by Los Angeles Times highlights some of the consequences, and arguments against AB 2888, including SB 813 which raises the statute of limitations for sex offenses. Prominent are issues at the intersections of sexual violence, mass incarceration, and racism; Los Angeles Times reports, “The law, public defenders, and analysts argue, often is unevenly applied against black and Latino men with little or no legal representation, harming families in communities already wracked by gun and gang violence.”  While SB 813 alleviates the statute of limitations so that survivors can still seek justice, Sujatha Baliga a survivor and former Director of Community Justice Works in Berkeley, spoke out about issues that survivors can face  by removing the statues. Baliga is an advocate for restorative justice, a process in which victims and offenders come together to talk about the incident and reconcile, and has iterated that many victims may be hesitant to use the process if there’s a chance that something said might be reported to police. Many victims don’t report what happened to them because they don’t want their abuser, who may be a relative, to get in trouble.
While many bills are a cause of controversy, others have set proactive solutions and positively impact survivors and form an understanding in our communities, like AB 1761, AB 1744, and SB 1435. AB 1761 protects victims of human trafficking with affirmative defense, while  AB 1744 standardizes forensic sexual assault medical evidence kits across the state, and SB 1435 pushes forward a health framework/healthy relationships curriculum to: address inclusive information on sexual assault and harassment for grades 9 to 12 , and inclusive information on the development of healthy relationships for grades 1 to 8.
Moving forward, a vision for effective legislation and policies regarding sexual violence calls for holistic approaches. It’s important before, during, and after a policy is chaptered or vetoed that members, advocates, and allies in the movement to end sexual violence understand, engage in, and are included in legislative discourse. By engaging in conversations, working collectively and collaboratively policies of promise can become priorities on legislative platforms, and agendas while issues of protest can be anticipated and addressed.