SAN DIEGO — The California senate now has a bill that would dramatically change how domestic violence crimes are reported. Supporters say it would help keep victim's safe, while the critics argue it can only make domestic violence situations more dangerous.
The assembly bill would remove the requirement that a health practitioner must make a report to law enforcement when they suspect a patient has suffered physical injury caused by assault or abusive conduct.
The bill’s co-sponsor, Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, tweeted in part, "Research has shown that mandatory reporting to law enforcement can keep survivors of domestic and sexual violence from seeking health care."
“This is quite outrageous. This bill makes absolute no sense," said San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan who opposes the bill.
"Imagine a victim arrives stabbed multiple times to the hospital and the doctor cannot report to law enforcement. It's unfathomable that we will subject our victims to this treatment. How is this going to protect them? They didn’t protect themselves! They didn’t stab themselves," said Stephan.
City Attorney Mara Elliot sent CBS 8 this statement:
Survivors of domestic violence deserve safety and supportive services as well as protection from future abuse, and should receive both. The risk of death increases with each domestic violence incident, and victims are in no position to decide what constitutes criminal abuse or assault. Moreover, they are subject to retaliation from their abuser if they make the police report, as opposed to it coming from a mandated health care professional. By putting the onus of reporting on survivors, AB 2790 puts them in even greater danger.
Elliott's office oversees the Family Justice Center, created by a predecessor of hers, Casey Gwinn. Gwinn is responsible for the first domestic violence center in the country. For him, this issue is personal.
"I grew up in a home impacted by generations of child abuse. We are strongly opposed to AB 2790 because it takes us back about 30 years. Telling doctors and nurses they can no longer report to law enforcement is a terrible policy idea. That’s like telling the victims, 'you have to report it, you have to do it,' putting the victim right in harm's way. 'You can intimidate her, you'll never get this reported,'" said Gwinn.
Across the country, three women are murdered every day by their intimate partners, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
A 2019 San Diego Unified School District Risk Behavior Survey revealed that 1 in 16 students have experienced physical dating violence and 1 in 5 have experienced emotional dating violence.
"We hope the legislature and Governor will wake up because it can be a death sentence for a lot of victims," said Stephan.
The bill, AB 2790, has already been approved by the State Assembly and is due to be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee Monday, August 1st.
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