As Californians, we take pride in our state’s reputation as a progressive and inclusive hub. But if the recent scandals involving sexual harassment and abuse in Hollywood and Sacramento have taught us anything, it is that women in California are facing the same forms of injustice as women across the country. And when the issue is domestic violence, this injustice can be a matter of life and death.
Today, 40 percent of California women experience domestic violence in their lifetimes and 10 percent of homicides in 2015 were tied to domestic violence. In a recent poll conducted by the Blue Shield of California Foundation, nearly three out of five respondents said they had been personally affected by domestic violence. Some were victims and some were abusers, while others had friends or family members who were one or the other.
There is good news. California has taken important steps in recent years to stem the tide of domestic violence. For example, in 2014 we became the first state to allow family members and intimate partners to petition judges to remove firearms from a relative who poses a threat. But given the stubbornly high rates of domestic violence across the state, our current policies are not enough. Recent alarming headlines detailing tragedy after tragedy make the moral case for action.
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At a January rally at the state Capitol, domestic violence survivors joined with advocates and elected officials to draw more attention to the problem. California’s domestic violence funding covers emergency services, but includes few dollars for prevention. We can also tackle the root causes by helping young people reject bullying and other forms of violence, and by educating adults about what domestic violence is and how to safely leave an abusive relationship. Survivors of domestic violence tell us that we also must step up support so they can rebuild their lives, including housing assistance, legal support and counseling for children.
It’s not just survivors who are saying we should do more. In the Blue Shield survey, almost nine in 10 said they see domestic violence as a serious problem in our society and eight in 10 said they support more government investment to prevent domestic violence.
This is a watershed moment in how we as a society respond to violence and injustice toward women. We must not miss this critical opportunity. Let’s commit ourselves to the prevention measures and lasting support that will break the cycle of domestic violence.
Surina Khan is CEO of the Women’s Foundation of California and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Peter Long is president and CEO of the Blue Shield of California Foundation and can be contacted at email@example.com.