Thursday, October 13, 2011

Action Alert: Never Again! What just happened in Kansas?

In September, Taylor announced that due to budget cuts he would no longer prosecute DV misdemeanors, which essentially decriminalized domestic violence and left abused women with severely limited legal protections. After an outcry from domestic violence advocates, including a strong response by KCSDV, the DA reversed his original position and said he would restart prosecuting DV at the county level.

Read Topeka’s announcement on Tuesday in the New York Times (10/11) and Taylor’s response on ABC News (10/12).

If you live in Kansas, read your legal protections on, contact a local shelter or write to our Email Hotline for individual support.

WomensLaw and NNEDV remain committed to ending violence against women. NNEDV President Sue Else stated, “It is unconscionable to attempt to balance budgets on the backs of victims of domestic violence, putting them in greater danger of serious injury or death. Holding perpetrators of domestic violence accountable is a cornerstone of public health and safety. We urge the local government to fully fund the prosecution of all domestic violence cases today. We cannot afford to wait."



October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). It is the month to remember the 1 in every 4 women who are abused by an intimate partner and the month to speak up about the issue! Now, more than ever, is the time to raise awareness that domestic violence still exists. At WomensLaw, a project of NNEDV, we are committed to doing just that: providing easy-to-understand legal information, responding to requests for help through the Email Hotline, and keeping you up-to-date with DV news through our blog, Twitter and Facebook pages. Thanks to the great efforts by similar organizations, this October stands out as a particularly informative month about domestic violence awareness. Many advocates and supporters are wearing purple, joining in rallies and marches, President Obama spoke about raising awareness, and Anderson Cooper did a television special. And there’s still over half of the month to go!

How can you support DVAM? Here are some ideas:

No matter which option you choose, you’ll be taking an incredibly important step in fighting to end DV. Despite all of this progress, there is still work to be done. The recent proposal to decriminalize domestic violence in Topeka, KS is a reminder of why raising awareness about domestic violence is so important. (Read more about domestic violence prosecution in Kansas on the New York Times and Huffington Post.) Domestic violence affects people’s lives every day.

Which leads us to the most important part, the reason we need to restart this blog: while devoting a month to raising awareness is something to be celebrated, our efforts cannot stop on October 31. Follow WomensLaw Reports as we highlight legal information, ways to find help for yourself or a loved one, and news about community organizations working to end DV. WomensLaw Reports will look at different parts of the movement to end violence against women, starting by featuring community events devoted to DVAM. November will bring a different focus. For now, we plan on wearing purple and working to ensure that officials in Topeka know we will stand together in the fight to end domestic violence.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Snapshot of Domestic Violence Services Across the U.S.

A new survey conducted by the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) reveals telling information about domestic violence services in the U.S. On September 15, 2010 – one 24-hour period – domestic violence victim advocates served more than 70,000 adults and children and answered more than 20,000 emergency hotline calls. During the same 24 hours, more than 9,000 requests for services went unmet, largely due to lack of funding.

Though the economy does not cause domestic violence, factors associated with economic uncertainties can increase the severity and frequency of abuse. At the same time, options for survivors to escape can be more limited. More than 80 percent of local domestic violence programs reported an increased demand for their services while nearly the same number reported decreases in funding.

“The economy is exacerbating domestic violence, and victim advocates across the country are struggling to do more with less,” said Sue Else, president of NNEDV. “Despite the immense challenges, local programs are providing life-saving services to so many survivors of domestic and sexual violence.”

Each year, NNEDV conducts a 24-hour survey of local domestic violence programs. In addition to the number of victims served, more than 30,000 individuals attended 1,240 training sessions provided by local domestic violence programs to help prevent violence.

Across the nation on September 15, 2010, three women were murdered by their intimate partners. Thirty-six babies were born to mothers living in domestic violence shelters. Three-hundred-ninety-one survivors started new jobs. Three men committed suicide – one after murdering his wife, another after a failed attempt to kill his girlfriend, and the third after holding his partner hostage and a standoff with the police.

In 2010, 1,747 local domestic violence programs, or 91 percent, submitted their 24-hour counts for September 15. The full National Domestic Violence Counts 2010 are available online at

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"Love the Way You Lie" sending what kind of message?

The recent release of “Love the Way You Lie,” Eminem’s new collaboration with Rihanna, has generated a heated debate over whether Rihanna is sending the wrong message to victims of domestic violence. The song’s graphic music video, which stars Megan Fox and Dominic Monaghan, has garnered nearly 20 million hits on you-tube and depicts a couple caught in a vicious, abusive relationship. The song has been both criticized and praised: for glamorizing domestic violence, and for shedding light on the issue.

Both Rihanna and Eminem have personal experience with abusive relationships, although from radically different perspectives. Eminem has been investigated for domestic violence and criticized for songs that glorify violence against women. Rihanna, on the other hand, was the victim of a high-profile assault in 2009 by then-boyfriend Chris Brown, and has since become an unwitting spokesperson for domestic abuse victims.

Rihanna sings the refrain “Just gonna stand there and watch me burn/that’s alright because I like the way it hurts.” Many people feel that these lyrics endorse the cycle of domestic abuse, rather than condemn it, sending a disempowering message to victims of abuse. Others feel that the song is attempting to convey the psychological difficulties faced by those trying to leave abusive relationships.

Rihanna justified her decision to participate in this song by saying, “It’s something that [Eminem and I have] both experienced on different sides, different ends of the table…It was authentic. It was real. He [Eminem] pretty much just broke down the cycle of domestic violence and it’s something that a lot of people don’t have a lot of insight on, so this song is really powerful.”

If you or someone you know is trying to leave an abusive relationship, visit for information on how to stay safe.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Report Clears Paterson, but Exposes NYPD Failures

A report released by the NY Attorney General’s office this Wednesday, July 28, clears Governor Paterson of criminal charges relating to his alleged role in attempting to cover up domestic violence claims against a former top aide. The report investigated whether Paterson and the New York State Police became improperly involved in an incident of domestic violence between Paterson’s long-term aide David W. Johnson and his then-girlfriend, Sherr-Una Booker. The report, by Judge Judith S. Kaye, former chief judge of the State Appellate Court and independent counsel to the New York office of the Attorney General, says that while Paterson made “errors of judgment,” he did not break any laws.

Even though Paterson is criminally vindicated in this case, the report does highlight some revealing failures on the part of the New York Police Department which have serious implications for victims of domestic violence. The domestic dispute between Johnson and Booker occurred on October 31st, 2009, and allegedly involved Johnson physically attacking Booker: choking her, throwing her against a dresser, and tearing off her clothes. The report states that evidence reveals “errors in the NYPD response to the incident.”

In fact, Booker made three phone calls to the NYPD to report a domestic violence incident and request assistance. Booker’s 911 call was categorized as a “dispute” and therefore a “low priority call.” The patrol car assigned to respond to Booker’s request for assistance first attended a car accident (waiting for the car to be towed before leaving the scene) and then to a landlord-tenant dispute before finally moving on to Booker’s residence. Shockingly, but not unusually, it took the NYPD a full hour and a half to arrive at her apartment.

When they DID arrive, the NYPD patrol officers did not adequately respond to Booker’s reports that she was strangled. The incident was classified as "harassment" because the officers did not see visible injuries on Booker’s body. “Harassment” is a violation that is prosecutable, but is not considered a crime under New York Law. Because the NYPD officers saw no visible injuries and did not witness the altercation between Johnson and Booker, the only recourse they offered Booker was to file for a civil order of protection in the Bronx Family Court – even though Booker was afraid that Johnson would return to her apartment that night to “finish the job.”

This report highlights just a few of the obstacles faced by victims of domestic violence when they report an incident of abuse - delayed police responses, which could have a critical impact on the safety of the victim, and the difficulty for a victim to get the police to arrest an abuser whose actions are classified as harassment, before any visible bruising or markings appear that support a victims claim of choking or other assault.

For state-by-state legal information, to read the actual laws in your state, and to find resources for women living with or escaping domestic violence or sexual assault, please visit

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Obama Signs New Tribal Law and Order Act into Law!

Great news! A new Tribal Law and Order Act (TLOA) will be signed into law by President Obama today. The law, which revises the 1968 Indian Civil Rights Act, will clear up some obscurities in the relationship between federal and tribal laws, in order to combat the persistent problem of violence among Native Americans. It is a significant move forward in the effort to achieve justice for victims of violence on reservations, particularly women victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

In the most recent Bureau of Justice Statistics report on American Indians and Crime, a comprehensive study spanning most of the 1990s, Native Americans were found to be the victims of violent crime at more than twice the national rate. The problem especially affects women: according to Amnesty International, over a third of Indian and Alaska Native women will be raped in their lifetime. Enacted in response to these significant concerns, President Obama called this new law an “important step to help the federal government better address the unique public safety challenges that confront tribal communities.” The president said that in some Native American communities, the violent crime rates are more than 10 times the national average, the LA Times reports.

In the recent past, federal laws regulating Native American life have been few and far between. Tribal law differs significantly from tribe to tribe among each of the 560+ federally recognized Nations. The TLOA, first introduced in 2009, is designed to improve cooperation between federal, local, and tribal law enforcement. The law clearly authorizes collaboration between tribal and other jurisdictions. This means that if tribal law enforcement is in hot pursuit of someone who leaves their territory, they will be able to effectively coordinate with local law enforcement. Additionally, the TLOA gives tribal governments access to important national criminal databases, and creates a new federal office, the Office of Indian Country Crime, to improve communication between federal and tribal governments. The Indian Health Service, the federal department charged with ensuring Native American Health, will also be required to put consistent sexual assault protocol into operation.

Significantly, the new law also authorizes tribal governments to assign prison terms of up to three years. Under the 1968 law, tribal courts could impose criminal sentences of up to one year, but they were not bound by the 6th Amendment, which ensures the right to legal counsel. Under the new TLOA, tribal governments will have the option to assign longer prison sentences, however if they wish to participate in the three-year provision, they must provide attorneys for their defendants.

Signing the new TLOA into law will improve the efficiency of tribal governments to catch and prosecute criminals, will give tribal courts the ability to impose stricter sentences, and will establish more comprehensive rules regarding the collection of data on crime – all of which will contribute tremendously to the fight against domestic violence and sexual assault in Native American communities.

Visit to learn more about tribal laws, for information on tribal protection orders and to access other online resources for domestic violence on tribal land.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

New Domestic Violence Laws Incorporate Use of GPS Technology

GPS tracking is gaining traction in multiple states as a tool with which to fight domestic violence.

On Tuesday, a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that police acted legally in using GPS technology to track a man accused of stalking a woman. Police placed a GPS device in the car of the suspect, which enabled them to collect the evidence necessary to arrest him. The suspect appealed, arguing that the GPS tracking violated his constitutional rights, but his appeal was overruled, giving state police the authority to use GPS technology in their efforts to combat stalking, and other crimes.

Another use of GPS technology is being initiated in Connecticut. Starting on October 1, a GPS monitoring system will be activated to track abusers who violate protective orders against them. The program, called First Alert, will notify victims of domestic violence when their abusers come within a certain distance. The Connecticut GPS program gained support this spring after several high-profile domestic violence homicides which could potentially have been avoided had victims known that their abusers were breaching the proscribed buffer-zone of protection. The program will be piloted for 6 months unless more funding can be secured. Those offenders who can afford it will be billed for the cost of the GPS monitoring equipment.

A new law in Kentucky has just gone into effect that requires some domestic violence offenders to wear a GPS transmitter around their ankle. The transmitters notify the police if an offender penetrates what is called an “exclusion zone” - an area established to keep offenders away from victims. Like in Connecticut, if ordered to wear a GPS transmitter by a judge, the offender will have to pay for the cost of the device – at a cost of approximately $12 per day.

If you’re an advocate interested in learning more about how new technologies can be used to protect victims of domestic violence, as well as how new technologies can become tools of abuse in the hands of offenders, check out Safety Net Project.