Victims of Stalking Find Relief and Safety in Passage of AB 499

September 18, 2013

CONTACT: Stephanie Ong Stillman, DA Gascón’s Office, (415) 553-1167/(415) 740-5134
Emily Salgado, Assemblymember Phil Ting, (415-557-2312/415-793-2588)

District Attorney Gascón and Assembly member Ting: Governor Brown Signs Landmark Reform for Victims of Stalking Into Law

SAN FRANCISCO -- San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón and California State Assemblymember Philip Y. Ting (D-San Francisco) are pleased to announce the passage of AB 499, a new law that will protect victims of stalking and remove barriers that often discourage victims from taking steps to protect themselves. This bi-partisan legislation was passed unanimously by both the Assembly and Senate, and was recently signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown.

Existing law provides that a victim of stalking may seek a civil injunction that stays in effect for a period of up to three years, and may be renewed for another period of up to three years. AB 499 extends the amount of time up to five years, and allows it to be renewed up to an additional five years.

“Our laws should never discourage a victim from taking measures that will protect them from their stalker,” said District Attorney George Gascón. “What they are going through is horrific, and I’m proud that AB 499 will remove barriers that prevent victims from seeking adequate protections.”

“With AB 499, California will provide much needed relief for stalking victims,” said Assemblymember Phil Ting (D- San Francisco/San Mateo). Stalking is a complex crime that can lead to re-victimization and can place the public in danger. I thank DA Gascón, my colleagues in the legislature, and Governor Brown for their bi-partisan support of AB 499.”

The impetus for this legislation came from a stalking case out of the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office. The victim, a young woman, had been receiving unwanted attention from an individual more senior in her office. They had no working relationship, no romantic relationship, and no social relationship. However, the man became obsessed with her and she had to move to a different office branch to avoid him. Over time, his romantic overtures turned into threats to shoot her and cut off her head. Even after he was fired from his job, he persisted in threatening her.

A criminal case was filed along with a criminal restraining order. This young woman also got her own civil restraining order. When the man continued to stalk the young woman, she requested multiple renewals of her civil restraining order. For over a decade, she lived with a well-founded fear that he would continue to violate the restraining order and attempt to contact, and possibly kill her. She has worried about her presence on the internet, in professional journals, and in county records.

Stalking takes a deep toll on its victims, they suffer from terror and anxiety, and the data indicates it’s on the rise. From 2005 to 2012, the number of people who reported being stalked grew 270%, from 1.4 million to 6.6 million. As many as 1 in 4 women and 1 in 13 men report being stalked. 1 in 7 victims of stalking move at least once and 1 in 8 employed victims lose time from work as a result of their victimization. Almost half of all stalking victims fear not knowing what will happen next and 29% fear the stalking will never stop. The prevalence of anxiety, insomnia, social dysfunction, and severe depression is much higher among stalking victims than the general population. For 11% of victims, stalking lasts for five years or more.

With this legislation, California will begin to make headway into greater protections for stalking victims. Extending the length of a civil protective order relieves victims of the burden of having to petition the court more frequently, expend resources to find and serve their stalkers, and the emotional toll of having to relive the stalking behavior.