Saturday, September 21, 2013

Limiting calls for help

In the United States, every nine seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten.  The leading cause of injury to women, is domestic violence.  Victims of domestic violence suffer through multiple assaults before they contact law enforcement to report assault.  Victims report other forms of victimization beside assaults, such as cutting off money or restricting freedom of movement.  This indicates that assault is often an escalating problem or that assault happens in a series of steps.

But despite this happening, women are afraid to report domestic violence to law enforcement.  According to a national survey, only one-fourth of victims report physical assaults to the police.  The number one reason women did not report assaults to police is a belief that police cannot or will not do anything for them.

So what laws can you put in place that would hurt women even more?  Maybe you would put laws in place that threaten housing if you call 911 too often.
Norristown, Pennsylvania orders landlords to evict tenants after three 911 calls within four months.  The law is supposed to promote peaceful neighborhoods and discourage nuisance calls.  Apparently, these laws are quite common, as over 100 cities or towns have enacted similar laws.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has challenged these laws on the belief that domestic violence victims are endangered by laws such as this.  The ACLU found a test case to challenge the law in a district court.  Nursing assistant Lakisha Briggs, a single mother living in Norristown under a federal subsidized rent program said that she was afraid to call police during an attack by her ex-boyfriend, after a series of police calls involving arguments with her daughter and others.

The town has argued that the law is not onerous, in part, because there are exceptions for true emergencies.  Disorderly conduct is what is supposed to be addressed by these laws.  The ACLU argues that the police has too much discretion in what constitutes an emergency.  Women who already are distrustful of law enforcement, are even more afraid if the police have more control over housing.

If the landlord does not evict the tenant, then they face a fine.  Landlords are allowed to appeal the fine.  But even the District Court Judge questioned whether or not landlords would simply evict the tenant rather than appeal because it is the easy way out.

These laws further endanger women who are being assaulted.  While the laws were set in place to try and discourage nuisance, the actual effects of the law seem to scare assault victims away from reporting to police because they are afraid of losing housing.    

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