When Tia Katrina Taruc Canlas studied at UC Berkeley School of Law, she learned from one of her professors, Nancy Lemon, that many survivors of domestic abuse aren’t told of all their legal options. Lemon insisted that some enterprising young lawyer should use the civil code some day to seek justice for domestic violence victims. The seed was planted.
Today, Canlas, a Berkeley lawyer, has taken her professor’s advice to heart, and is employing a surprisingly underused, survivor-based approach to tackle domestic violence — holding batterers financially accountable in court for their actions. “Since our criminal laws are applied so unevenly and unfairly across races, it’s not really good to have imprisonment as the goal for justice,” said Canlas, as we sat in a worker-owned cafe below the architecture firm where she rents space. “I wanted to find better ways to deal with domestic violence and rape, and I think taking [abusers’] money is one of the best.”
Canlas’ childhood was shaped by domestic abuse. She said her father punched her mother Tina Taruc in the stomach while she was pregnant with Tia. After more abuse, Taruc threatened to leave. Canlas’ father then hired an attorney and divorced her mom. Lacking funds to take recourse of her own, Taruc was left with nothing.