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Speaker’s Bill to Better Serve Victims of Violence and Abuse Signed by Governor Brown

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SACRAMENTO – Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. today signed Assembly Bill 1623, legislation by Speaker Toni G. Atkins that would strengthen Family Justice Centers and increase privacy for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse.

“Victims are more likely to seek services if they know that they have the final say in how their information is used,” Speaker Atkins (D-San Diego) said. “Family Justice Centers are one-stop resource centers that are now serving over 14,000 victims each year. The most important first step in addressing abuse is to get the victim and any children involved into a safe and healthy situation. If a victim fears they might get in trouble for trying to escape an abusive environment, they are not likely to seek help. This is why the confidentiality provisions of AB 1623 are so important.”

The National Family Justice Center Alliance welcomed news of the signing.

“This legislation will increase privacy protections for domestic violence victims coming to Family Justice Centers while promoting the Family Justice Center, multi-agency model where victims can come to one place for everything they need,” said Casey Gwinn, the President of the National Family Justice Center Alliance.

“The Speaker’s leadership was critical to this effort to provide more effective services for more victims of intimate partner violence,” said Gael Strack, CEO of the National Family Justice Center Alliance, and the founding director of the San Diego Family Justice Center, the first Family Justice Center in the country.

A Family Justice Center is a collaborative service model where victims of sexual abuse, domestic violence and certain other crimes can go to receive services. The model is based on the co-location of a multi-agency, multi-disciplinary team of professionals who work together under one roof to provide coordinated services to victims of family violence. The first Family Justice Center was created in San Diego in 2002. Since then, seventeen Family Justice Centers have been opened in California, and six more are currently in development

AB 1623 will define the term “Family Justice Center” in statute and include important client privacy protections. Specifically, AB 1623 will protect victims by explicitly stating that they need not participate in the criminal justice system in order to obtain services and that informed client consent is required before information can be shared among partner agencies.

CONTACT: Dave Sebeck (916) 319-2408

Website of Assembly Speaker Toni G. Atkins: http://asmdc.org/speaker

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