Proposed Protection for Domestic Violence Victims

On July 14, 2016, United States Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced legislation in the United States Senate to further ensure the rights of victims of domestic violence.

The new legislation would ensure that these individuals (usually women and their children) would not be evicted from their homes due to the actions of their abusers.

In a scenario envisioned by The Huffington Post:

“…Imagine you’re a woman trying to extricate yourself from an abusive relationship, and your ex won’t leave you alone. The cops have been called to your apartment on more than one occasion. One night, he breaks into your apartment, smashing a window and causing some property damage. Another night, an ambulance screams up your street to fetch you after neighbors find you bloodied in the hallway. Then you find out you’re being evicted for causing too much trouble…”

These people can be evicted by what are known as nuisance laws. Local communities create laws holding property owners responsible for criminal activity occurring on the owners’ properties. When law enforcement officials respond to crimes at the properties after a certain number of times, the properties are called nuisances. By deeming a property a nuisance due to criminal behavior, these nuisance laws allow anyone living on the property to be evicted.

According to Senator Shaheen,

“Domestic violence and sexual assault survivors have so many obstacles to overcome – it’s unconscionable that [they] are removed from their homes and face repeated discrimination simply because of the heinous crimes committed against them. We need to continue working to change the culture surrounding domestic violence and sexual assault, and a big part of that effort is recognizing that [these individuals] suffering from physical or sexual abuse are victims of crime and deserve our support. The Fair Housing for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Survivors Act of 2016 would ensure that we are no longer punishing victims for the crimes committed against them, and would go a long way toward helping survivors recover and rebuild.”

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Development, the third leading cause of homelessness of families nationwide, is domestic violence. And according to the National Center on Homelessness and Poverty, Shaheen’s bill could help domestic violence maintain their homes or gain access to homes if they’ve been denied access in the past because of nuisance laws.

Maria Foscarinis, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty’s executive director stated, “There is this critical link between domestic violence, housing instability and homelessness. “It’s really important to break that link, and this bill is an important step in that direction.”

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