Contributed by Defensa De Mujeres
Executive Director Laura Segura of Santa Cruz County’s only rape crisis and domestic violence center, Women’s Crisis Support – Defensa de Mujeres, helped get Senate Bill 612 passed into law. Laura Segura worked on the legislation as a Fellow with the Women’s Policy Institute, which is a project of the Women’s Foundation of California. SB 612, authored by Senator Mark Leno, gives survivors of human trafficking the right to terminate residential leases in order to protect themselves against their abusers. The bill also strengthens existing protections for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence who are forced to vacate a rental property for personal safety reasons.
“Today’s signature by Gov. Brown helps keep California families safe by ensuring that survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking and other abuses can relocate when their lives are in danger,” said Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. Senator Leno’s bill expands the type of documentation a victim can present to a landlord to demonstrate that abuse has occurred, including documentation from a domestic violence counselor or medical professional. The bill will officially become state law on January 1, 2014.
Laura Segura, a resident of the Pajaro Valley, along with her team of Women’s Policy Institute (WPI) fellows worked on SB 612 from its inception. The Women’s Policy Institute is a one year fellowship in policy advocacy. The program trains leaders from across the state to research and write legislation, testify at public hearings, influence the state budget process, and work with the opposition. The fellows are chosen through a competitive application process based on their individual strengths, leadership, and deep knowledge and experience in social justice issues. Fellows do more than pass legislation. They develop relationships between grassroots activists and others working on policy, including state legislators, and government agency staff members.
In the past ten years, WPI fellows have contributed to the passage of 16 legislative wins for women and their families in California. These bills represent positive changes in the law impacting such issues as domestic violence, human trafficking, environmental health, food stamp eligibility, access to education, family planning & sex education, childcare, and women in prison.
“The Women’s Policy Institute has provided me with confidence and tools to impact change on a larger scale that will not only ensure the safety and well-being of survivors of violence that we serve at Women’s Crisis Support – Defensa de Mujeres, but all Californians. Violence affects every one of us,” said Laura Segura, of her fellowship experience. She hopes to expand her and her organization’s work on other policies affecting families and said, “I am looking forward to having our organization become a state leader in public policy.”
About Women’s Crisis Support – Defensa de Mujeres
Women’s Crisis Support – Defensa de Mujeres has a 37 year history in Santa Cruz County and the Pajaro Valley of providing advocacy and services to women and children affected by violence. Those services include court accompaniments, restraining order assistance, counseling, emergency shelter, 24-hour crisis line, outreach and education, and support groups. WCS~DdM is the only rape crisis center and has the only emergency domestic violence shelter in Santa Cruz County and includes an emergency response team. All services are available in Spanish and English and are free or low cost.
About the Women’s Foundation of California The Women's Foundation of California is a publicly supported grant making foundation that invests in women as a key strategy for creating a California where all communities are economically secure and can thrive. Since 1979, the Foundation has awarded more than $30 million to over 1,200 community-based organizations in each region of the state. The Women’s Policy Institute is one of its projects.