Jan 23, 2020

Domestic violence, sex assault and human trafficking are grossly underreported and those who do report their abuse tend to be unsatisfied with their experience with the criminal justice system. It is imperative that prosecutors along with law enforcement and community leaders develop a plan to improve how survivors are treated when they come into contact with the criminal justice system. As District Attorney of Los Angeles, I will use gender responsive principles along with cultural and linguistic competency to develop protocols that protect and empower survivors. In order to increase reporting we must create a culture that supports survivors wherever they are in their recovery process.

Basic principles include ensuring evidence is promptly collected, tested and preserved. I will also ensure that law enforcement and prosecutors are trained to respond to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault with trauma informed practices. I will develop policies in the office to elevate the voices and choices of survivors. Abuse survivors should not be forced or coerced to participate in the prosecution of their abuser, and I would never want to compound their trauma with the threat of incarceration. I want to empower survivors to make decisions that enhance their safety and recovery in order to repair the damage caused.

Domestic Violence

Give Survivors A Voice in Prosecution Decision – End The Practice of Body Attachments
A survivor鈥檚 safety should never be contingent on their decision to prosecute. As District Attorney I would ensure that domestic violence survivors feel safe to report abuse without worrying that they will be threatened or coerced into testifying. As District Attorney I will never subject victims of a crime to a body attachment. As Los Angeles District Attorney my office will implement protocols and community referrals for victims who express a preference for restorative justice responses and/or treatment.

Protect Survivors from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
Survivors should never have to fear that they will be detained by ICE if they report their abuse to police or testify against their abuser. I will take every precaution to ensure that victims of domestic violence are protected from immigration authorities whether or not they choose to participate in a prosecution. This includes enlisting victim advocates to serve as courthouse escorts and referral to immigration assistance and services.

Contact Victims Within 24 Hours of an Incident to Offer Support and Services
Survivors of domestic violence are at greatest risk immediately after they report abuse. To ensure their safety and communicate our care, commitment, and capacity to provide assistance, we will contact all domestic violence victims within 24 hours of a referral to the District Attorney in order to inform them of the support and resources available to them. We will also work with police to enhance notification procedures so victim advocates may reach out to victims of domestic violence within 24 hours of arrest.

Highly Trained Specialized Victim Advocates
As District Attorney I will identify and train victim advocates who will work exclusively with survivors of domestic violence. These advocates will have extensive training in the dynamics of domestic violence, trauma, and recovery from trauma.

High Lethality Protocols
It is imperative that law enforcement look for and respond to signs that a domestic violence situation could turn deadly. The adoption of high lethality protocols and training of both prosecutors and police can save lives. Identification of high risk cases provides the opportunity to ensure safety for the victim and offender accountability.

Culturally Competent Staff
As District Attorney I will prioritize the hiring of bilingual and bicultural staff who can communicate with victims in their native language and understand cultural norms of monolingual communities. It is important that advocates reflect the community they seek to serve. This is particularly important for marginalized, under represented and under resources victims.

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is a significantly under-reported crime. When survivors have the courage to come forward, that courage should be matched with the highest quality trauma informed services and justice system response. Where possible, this system response must be centered around the choice and voice of each survivor. As District Attorney of Los Angeles, I will advance the field of prosecution in partnership with law enforcement and community members to prevent sexual violence, hold offenders accountable, and ensure that each survivor finds their own path to healing and recovery.

Advocate for Victims of Uncharged Cases to have the Opportunity to Read a Victim Impact Statement at the Sentencing of a Serial Sex Offender
As District Attorney of San Francisco I charged more than twice the national average number of sex assault cases, the unfortunate reality remains that too few of these cases are reported, and fewer are successfully prosecuted even when the allegations are colorable. Due to the nature of these cases, survivors deserve their day in court even in instances in which the evidence was insufficient to result in a prosecution of their case. Enabling a survivor to tell their story in the form of a victim impact statement can be an important step in the long journey of recovery. Therefore, where a survivor wishes to participate, and where the court allows it, my office will advocate for victims of uncharged sex assault cases to have the opportunity to deliver a victim impact statement at the sentencing of a serial assailant charged in another case.

Demand Every Rape Kit Be Tested
Unfortunately, many American cities have storage rooms of untested rape kits. As District Attorney I will work with police agencies to assure every kit is quickly tested and that survivors are kept up to date on the process and status.

Develop a Sexual Assault Response Team
Many survivors of sexual assault complain of insensitive staff handling the investigation of their case. To improve compassionate service delivery, we will assign specialized victim advocates to serve as a primary contact for survivors from initial report through trial. We will also create an interagency Sexual Assault Task Force to help all law enforcement agencies improve their competency and increase coooperation in the investigation of these important cases.

Protect our LGBTQ Community
Sadly, members of our LGBTQ community experience sexual assaults at higher rates. Many in this community are fearful of law enforcement and a lack of sensitivity to their victimization. I will engage our LGBTQ community to increase trust and ensure better treatment of sexual assaults committed against members of the community. Additional training for Deputy DAs and specialized victim advocates are also necessary to better serve the needs of this community.

Campus Sexual Assault
Young women on college campuses are at increased risk of sexual assault during their college career. As I did in San Francisco, I will engage all college campuses in the County to partner with the LA DA. We can ensure better information for survivors and provide them with meaningful choices and protection. To help prevent crimes from occurring in the first place, I will work with community organizations to bring presentations and curriculum to middle and high school students, teaching them about consent and how to engage in healthy relationships. We will also enhance public education efforts during the period known as the 鈥榬ed zone鈥 from the first day of the school year through the Thanksgiving break.

Increase Survivors Voice and Choice
Survivors of sexual assault have many preferences for how they want their case handled. I will develop policies to ensure survivors have a range of possibilities to respond to their assault, covering options from restorative justice to prosecution. I will also establish community connections to after-care for victims of sexual assault so that they are supported beyond the criminal proceeding and have meaningful support as they continue to heal.

Human Trafficking

Los Angeles is home to one of the worst Human Trafficking problems in the United States. As District Attorney, I would dedicate my efforts to prosecuting the ring leaders in the human trafficking industry. One of my primary goals would be to train a specialized unit with the District Attorney鈥檚 Office to be more responsive to the needs of trafficking victims. I will partner with community based organizations to better understand the complex and multi-faceted concerns of those adults and children who are brutalized by human trafficking. I recognize that many victims are hesitant to report the crimes committed against them. I also recognize that prosecutors are partly to blame for that distrust. I want to earn the trust of those who have been neglected by the system. I promise to:

1. Not prosecute sex work.

2. Never use condoms as evidence in a crime involving sex work.

3. Never ask that the court issue a warrant for the arrest of the victim in a human sex trafficking

4. Train my deputies to ensure that every victim of sexual violence is connected with after-care services.

5. Ensure my Deputies are culturally and linguistically competent in their communication with victims.

6. Ensure my Deputies are trained in trauma informed care including the effects of trauma on memory, affect and behavioral responses to sexual trauma.

I also understand the abuse-to-prison pipeline. It is an issue that disproportionately affects women who have experienced sexual assault and abuse. Often times women experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of their victimization and have not been given access to necessary mental health treatment. When those women are then accused of a crime, the current system does nothing to acknowledge the trauma that they have suffered at the hands of their abuser. If elected District Attorney, I will train my deputies to evaluate and consider the sexual trauma background of the accused in charging and determining the appropriate outcome of a case, including how to effectively communicate with survivors. I will ensure that any potential sentence will include the necessary treatment to promote healing and rehabilitation. I will work hard to ensure that no victim of human trafficking is criminalized in this system.

In Solidarity,

George Gasc贸n