SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A Southern California legislator proposed a new law to help domestic violence centers expand their hotline services for victims of abuse.

Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach) introduced Assembly Bill 689 to support these organizations as they update their services to include computer chat and phone text platforms.

What You Need To Know

  • A new bill has been proposed by Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris to help domestic violence centers expand their hotline services

  • If passed, Assembly Bill 689 would help domestic violence centers across the state update their services to include text and chat options on their websites

  • Beth Hassett, the CEO of a domestic violence support center, says modernizing the hotline would be lifesaving for victims of violence during this pandemic

  • Since the pandemic began, there’s been a 9% increase in calls to the domestic violence hotline in California

Beth Hassett, CEO of the Sacramento domestic violence support center WEAVE, explained how modernizing the domestic violence hotline would be lifesaving for victims of violence during this pandemic.

“It’s just really important that people feel safe in their own bodies, in their own homes, walking down the street,” she said.

Hassett's organization provides a safe and healthy environment for survivors of sexual assault, sex trafficking and domestic violence to come forward. In the 1990s, WEAVE would receive thousands of calls from people asking for help, but now, Hassett noted, more victims of abuse are looking to connect online.

“Over the last three decades, how people communicate with an agency like WEAVE has really changed, and it’s very cumbersome for a lot of people to pick up the phone, and we want to make it easier for them to get services,” Hassett said.

With this legislation, the organization would be able to expand a new chat feature they recently launched online. Hassett explained how on a typical day, the domestic violence hotline receives about 13 calls per minute. However, since the pandemic began, there’s been a 9% increase.

“The types of domestic violence situations that they’re describing are much more lethal and dangerous than we’ve seen in non-pandemic times,” she said.

Hassett added that the chat is completely confidential and the best tool for victims to use while they are sheltering in place with their abuser.

"We don’t use a bot or any kind of automated thing," she said. "It’s actually an advocate who asks them a few questions, which are optional, and then launches into a chat with them about what’s going on."

Usually, if a domestic violence center wants these kinds of text features, they have to pay out of pocket, which is why Hassett is in support of AB 698. She explained how now is the time to update California law to help centers like WEAVE run their hotlines.

"It’s really important to look at these statutes and things that we think are protecting people, but times change, victimization changes, and this new technology will just make a huge difference in people's lives."