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
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
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.”