April 7, 2017
The ACLU filed a lawsuit Friday against the city of Maplewood, Missouri, over a policy that allegedly evicts domestic violence victims and banishes them from the St. Louis suburb if they call police for help more than twice in six months.
Friday’s lawsuit was brought on behalf of Rosetta Watson, who suffered a series of domestic violence attacks at the hands of her then-boyfriend Robert Hennings throughout 2011 and 2012. According to the lawsuit, Watson’s ex repeatedly showed up at her home to punch, shove, and choke her. She called the police four times, and Hennings was arrested and charged with assault three times.
The ACLU also filed lawsuits in Arizona in 2015 and Pennsylvania in 2013 over similar municipal ordinances that they allege punished domestic violence victims for placing calls to police.
“It’s hard enough from someone to consider calling the police,” said Wanda Lucibello, of the Crime Victim Assistance Program at Safe Horizon.
Lucibello cited her experience as a prosecutor working with domestic violence victims, and said that it typically takes up to seven instances of abuse before a victim calls police.
“It takes a lot of escalation and violence before someone gains the courage to say, ‘I really need the police to come give me assistance to get out of this situation,’” said Lucibello.
Victims of interpersonal relationship violence, said Lucibello, often struggle with the economics of leaving an abusive partner: finding a new home and moving with children are not easy tasks to take on alone. Being faced with potential eviction just for calling police only adds to the desire to stay silent, she added.