California is leading the nation for women once again. In the latest of a series of landmark bills to protect the rights of women in California, Governor Gray Davis signed a bill yesterday sponsored by the California National Organization for Women (NOW) that allows victims of gender-based crimes such as domestic violence and sexual assault to bring civil action against their attackers. California is the first state to enact such a law based on a civil remedy provision originally contained in the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) – approved by the US Congress in 1994 but struck down by the US Supreme Court in 2000. In United States v. Morrison, the Supreme Court ruled that the states, not Congress, had the right to enact this provision.
“Violence against women has reached epidemic proportions in this country. Through this measure, the state of California is making a strong statement about our commitment to ensuring that victims of gender-motivated crimes are able to recover financially from those who commit such violence,” said Assemblymember Hannah-Beth Jackson (D), who authored the bill. “Until we are able to decrease the incidence of gender-motivated violence, women cannot hope to achieve equality in our society.”
The bill allows women and men who are victims of gender-based violence to seek “actual, compensatory, and punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs.” The bill ensures that women have civil rights protections that recognize and address the wide-ranging impacts associated with these crimes.