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From Alma Beltran y Puga of the Human Rights Clinic:

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the United States, and we have a tragic story to tell. On June 22, 1999, Jessica Lenahan’s estranged husband, Simon Gonzales, abducted her three young daughters in violation of a court-issued domestic violence restraining order. As soon as she discovered that her children were missing, Jessica immediately called the Castle Rock Police Department, but her calls for help were ignored for the next ten hours. Shortly before dawn, Simon arrived at the police station and open fired. The police shot and killed Simon, and the dead bodies of the three Gonzales children were discovered in his truck. Jessica attempted to file a lawsuit against the police in federal court, but her case was dismissed. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld this decision, holding in 2005 that Jessica had no entitlement to police enforcement of the restraining order under due process of law.

However, nobody seems to care. As we approach the end of an election where the spotlight has shined so brightly on women, it is important to take some time to think about how the scourge of domestic violence takes over women’s lives. Every week, one in three women in the U.S. is battered by her intimate partner. As a result, families are destroyed. Life is forever changed after domestic violence enters the picture. In Colorado alone, 19 children have been killed by domestic violence, while their mothers have been left voiceless. Jessica Lenahan (formerly Gonzales) was one of these women. Finally, after nine years, she is able to have her story heard. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACH) will be holding a hearing on the merits of her case this week, at their headquarters in Washington, D.C.. The IACHR is one of the two international tribunals in the Americas that protect human rights. At the Commission, seven international human rights experts hear and review the claims of people who have suffered a violation of their fundamental freedoms and who have been unable to find justice and adequate remedies in their domestic courts.

Jessica claims that the State failed to take appropriate measures to protect her and her children-as established in the human rights treaties signed by the United States. The IACHR will examine at the hearing whether the United States failed to act with “due diligence” to prevent, investigate, and eradicate violence against women. Jessica and her lawyers assert that the failure of the police to enforce the restraining order and that of the courts to provide her with effective remedies is a violation of the international human rights duties of the United States and Colorado.

It is clear that Jessica Lenahan’s case is just a piece of the pattern of discrimination and violence that women face globally, as well as in the United States. Therefore, the discussion of the issue should not stay at home. The analysis of gender-based violence cases in international forums has been an effective way to promote international human right standards to end violence against women, especially for those who face it at home. It also provides survivors of violence with a public space to tell their stories and seek reparation. This hearing represents such an opportunity. Jessica will testify herself – and will represent many voiceless women who are unable to tell their stories.

Click here for footage from the hearing.

One comment

  1. Tragic. There are occasionally similar horror stories here in the UK and it seems the government are only just waking up to this problem (which obviously goes mostly unreported).

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