Abuse can take many forms. Many people associate abuse primarily with physical violence, but that’s just one variation of many. In intimate relationships like marriages, physical abuse may not even be the most harmful. For example, coercion can lead people to stay in an abusive relationship in ways that physical violence can’t achieve.
That’s why California has recently implemented a new law, Senate Bill 374. This bill, which will go into effect in January of 2022, expands the definition of abuse to include types of coercion. That’s great news for people in abusive relationships. Keep reading to learn what Senate Bill 374 accomplishes and how to get out of an abusive relationship so you can safely take advantage of legal protections.
What Senate Bill 374 Accomplishes
Senate Bill 374 specifically expands the definition of intimate partner abuse to include “reproductive coercion.” According to the bill, if a man denies his female partner access to contraception in any way, that behavior can be included in her legal complaint if she tries to get a restraining order. The denial can take the form of threats, coercion, or force.
This is a critical expansion of rights for women. Unfortunately, far too many men try to force women to have children with them to force a permanent relationship. By denying a woman birth control, her male partner prevents her from making decisions about her fertility and reproduction. That’s a gendered form of abuse that until now hasn’t received the attention it requires.
Before the passage of Senate Bill 374, reproductive coercion wasn’t against the law. Rape, including marital rape, was illegal, as was interfering with someone’s medications. However, nothing was barring a man from simply preventing his partner from going to the doctor for a birth control prescription in the first place. This new bill gives women the inalienable right to control their own fertility without their partner’s influence.
How to Safely Leave an Abusive Relationship in California
The law expands what’s considered “abuse,” which is excellent for people who need to apply for legal protection. However, that doesn’t solve the immediate issue of getting to safety. If you’re trying to leave an abusive relationship, you need to be careful. Here’s what you can do to stay safer while you get out.
Don’t Tell Your Partner
The first and most important rule of escaping dangerous relationships is to never tell the abuser what you’re planning. Abusers don’t like to give up control over their victims. Even people who have only performed verbal and emotional abuse in the past might escalate to more dangerous behaviors if they think they’re going to lose their hold over you.
Instead, plan to leave in secret. This helps you avoid dangerous confrontations and doesn’t give your abuser the chance to try to “talk you out” of it. Your mind is made up, after all. Now is the time to focus on yourself, not the other person.
Start Collect Private Resources
Many abusers cut off their victim’s access to resources. This includes things like money, vehicles, private phones and computers, and even friends and family. If you’re trying to get out, you’ll need to start collecting your own resources to plan.
An excellent way to start is to collect cash or open a private bank account. You should also lock down your phone or even get a second private device that you don’t tell your partner about. With funds and a private communication tool, the rest of the process will be much easier.
Reach Out for Help
Your abuser may have told you that no one else cares about you or that your friends and family are “bad” for you. That’s not true. Your friends and family care about you and miss you. Reach out to help from someone you trust, even if you haven’t talked in a while. They will probably be thrilled to help you take back your life.
You can also reach out to local shelters and abuse prevention organizations if you don’t feel comfortable talking to people you know. These organizations can help. They can connect you with places to go and resources for staying safe.
Finally, reach out to an experienced domestic abuse lawyer. A good lawyer will help you get the protection orders you need and make your divorce that much easier. They can also act as a go-between, helping you stay away from your abuser.
Make a Plan
Once you have some private resources and a team behind you, make a plan for how you’ll leave. Ideally, leave when your abuser isn’t home. Know what you need to take with you and where you’ll go. If you can, pack a bag with everything you’ll need in advance, so the actual process of leaving is as simple as possible.
Plan for Permanence
On average, an abused person leaves their partner seven times before the relationship is finally over for good. You can help prevent that kind of repetition by planning for your separation to be permanent. One way you can accomplish this is by getting a restraining order against your spouse. Many restraining orders require the abuser to pay alimony to the abused, which will give you the funds you need to set up your new life. They can also force the abuser to leave the shared home, which will provide you with a safe place to stay.
The new law is an attempt to give more people access to legal protections from their abusers. That’s excellent for everyone who suffers from coercion and needs legal assistance to stay safe. Still, to make use of abuse protection laws, you need to keep safe and get out.
Once you’ve collected private resources and developed your safety plan, you can reach out to an experienced attorney for help. The right attorney will support you in your time of need and help you access the protections that matter. Get in touch today to discuss your situation and learn how an attorney can help you end your abusive marriage for good.