Monthly Archives: December 2009

Management Company Sued For Evicting Victim of Domestic Violence

In October 2009, the Shriver Center and attorneys from Reed, Smith, Sachnoff and Weaver filed a federal lawsuit against AIMCO and several of its subsidiaries alleging that they violated the Fair Housing Act when they evicted a tenant as a result of domestic violence against her in her AIMCO apartment. 

In 2007, Kathy Cleaves Milan was living in the Elmcreek Apartments in Elmhurst, Illinois when her then fiancé tried to kill her and himself after she ended the relationship.  The lawsuit, which was a front page article in the Chicago Tribune, alleges that Ms. Milan stopped the attempted murder suicide, called the police, had the abuser involuntarily committed to a hospital, and barred from the premises by obtaining an Order of Protection.  After Ms. Milan told the management company what had happened and provided them with a copy of her Order of Protection, she was issued a notice terminating her tenancy. 

Because victims of domestic violence are predominately women, a growing body of law supports the proposition that discrimination against victims of domestic violence, like Ms. Milan, constitutes sex discrimination in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

Alaska: Restraining Orders May Aid Villages


Complete story – Source

Despite towering rates of sexual abuse and domestic violence, two-thirds of Alaska villages have no local police or troopers, a university expert said Thursday.

But there’s something most of Alaska’s more than 200 tribes don’t realize, said assistant professor Kevin M. Illingworth, head of the tribal management program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Federal law allows tribal courts and councils to slap restraining orders on people who commit domestic violence, demanding they stay away from victims — or in extreme cases banishing them from the village.

Illingworth spoke at an annual Bureau of Indian Affairs conference in Anchorage, where tribal council and court members joined other village service providers gathered from across the state. The meeting came as Gov. Sean Parnell announced a 10-year plan to battle rape and domestic violence in Alaska.

Alaska tribes issue up to two-dozen restraining orders a year, Illingworth said. It’s a modest number, he said, though Yukon-Kuskokwim villages, in particular, are increasingly using the tool.

“Tribes are really taking on a lot of these offenses because the troopers and law enforcement aren’t there,” he said.

That said, he added, “If you’re issuing protective orders and you don’t have law enforcement, practically speaking, what can you do?”

In an effort to boost rural enforcement, Parnell repeated his call Thursday for the state to hire 15 more Village Public Safety Officers every year for the next 10 years. A sexual assault is 3.5 times more likely to be accepted for prosecution when there is a VPSO or police officer in a community, said Public Safety Commissioner Joe Masters.

While the governor’s proposal calls for tougher punishment for offenders, tribal court judges at the Bureau of Indian Affairs conference are taking a different approach.

In the dry Kuskokwim Bay village of Kwigillingok, the tribal court cracks down on small offenses — underage snowmachine driving, vandalism — in hopes of warding off larger problems.

The tribal court doesn’t handle sexual abuse cases or felony assaults. But in a domestic violence case, elders might counsel first-time offenders according to village customs. No tape recorders or paperwork.

“We look for the good in that person,” said tribal court judge Elsie Jimmie.

If the person re-offends, the court might send the case to the state, said court administrator Adolph Lewis.

Complete story – Source

Alaska: New Shelter for Battered Women

Source: Fairbanks Daily News
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A new $9 million shelter for battered women and their children is opening in the town of Bethel to address the growing problem of domestic abuse in the largely Native region, facility operators said Tuesday.

The 30-bed crisis shelter, scheduled to open Friday, replaces a smaller facility run by the Tundra Women’s Coalition. Coalition director Michelle DeWitt said there is an increasing need for more beds than the 22 that were squeezed into the old shelter.

“The demand for shelter has been far greater than our capacity to house people,” DeWitt said. “This will allow us to open our doors to help more families in need.”

The facility will serve residents from the commercial hub town and about 50 surrounding villages. Four out of five clients are from outlying villages.

The old shelter took in nearly 400 people during the fiscal year that ended this summer, compared with less than 300 who sought shelter in fiscal year 2008.

The new shelter, funded by various private and government grants, also has far better security including more cameras and tighter control at entrances.

The building represents more than safety for Hanna White, a client from the Yupik Eskimo village of Napakiak.

“It gave me time to be by myself and think things over and there are counselors here who help,” said White, who looked at the old, drafty facility as a welcome refuge.

The 45-year-old said she moved to the old shelter two weeks ago to get away from her daughter’s boyfriend, who was abusive when he drank. White, who just got a job at a thrift store in Bethel, sees the new building as a reflection of her new life, a safe place to lift her spirits.

“If feels more secure, and women who come in will be more comfortable there,” she said.

Most clients are victims of domestic violence, like White, but many also have been sexually assaulted, DeWitt said. Alaska has long reported the highest sexual assault rate in the nation, and authorities say the problem is worst in rural areas.

Seeking safety is a complicated process for abuse victims in rural Alaska, said Sandy Samaniego, executive director of the state’s Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

In villages, where everyone knows each other, it’s hard for victims to remain anonymous, she said. They are sometimes shunned if alleged abusers play an important role in the community, such as subsistence hunting.

Providing a shelter in a hub town brings its own issues because it requires victims to give up the comfort and security of their own homes, Samaniego said. Still, the Bethel shelter plays an important role, she added.

“Our first need is safety and there just aren’t the resources anywhere to provide a shelter in each village,” she said. “It’s absolutely critical to victims that they’re not being hurt.”

Source: Fairbanks Daily News

Oregon Domestic Violence Murders

18 people have lost their lives in less than 30 days. Along with seven women, two young children were shot and killed along with their mothers, and an adult son died trying, unsuccessfully, to protect his mother. All eight male perpetrators committed suicide.


Domestic violence murders: Community and victims cry out for solutions
December 12, 2009


The domestic violence murders staining our region in the past month have been horrific and relentless. In total, 18 people have lost their lives in less than 30 days. Along with seven women, two young children were shot and killed along with their mothers, and an adult son died trying, unsuccessfully, to protect his mother. All eight male perpetrators committed suicide.

These tragedies have occurred across Oregon, in both urban and rural communities. One thing is clear: Domestic violence is a public health and safety crisis in our state with far-reaching consequences. Individuals, workplaces, schools and agencies are negatively affected. The toll on victims, children, families and communities cannot be measured.

We have a responsibility to our families and our communities to do better.

We join together to issue a statewide call to action. In the aftermath of these tragedies, government and justice system officials, policymakers and advocates are asking what could have been done to prevent these deaths.

We applaud the fast response of state leaders such as Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who is convening a group of leaders in law enforcement, advocacy and social services to look at how we can do a better job. A statewide critical and thorough review of each case by a multidisciplinary group will assess whether there were missed opportunities to step in, provide safety and avert these heartbreaking deaths.

Also, Attorney General John Kroger has announced that he is recruiting a special domestic-violence prosecutor to provide more support to families and local prosecuting attorneys.

In looking at the recent tragedies, several other compelling issues clearly stand out:

Shelter and safety services are not funded to meet the need. The recent murders highlight the fact that separating from an abuser is an extraordinarily dangerous period of time. Yet in 2008, more than 19,000 requests for emergency shelter by victims could not be met because of a lack of resources. Where did these victims and their children go in the middle of the night when no safe shelter was to be found? When a victim is ready to take the brave step of leaving, a comprehensive and coordinated safety net must be in place and accessible.

Child welfare intervention must be coordinated with domestic violence services. Approximately one-third of Oregon’s child abuse cases involve domestic violence in the home. When Child Welfare responds to these cases, it is vital that parents who are victims, as well as their children, receive immediate and supportive services so that adult victims can protect themselves and their children.

Domestic violence doesn’t stay at home when its victims go to work. As recent cases have illustrated, domestic violence perpetrators pose a threat at the workplace to victims as well as to their co-workers. Employers play a critical role in ensuring that victims understand their options and are supported in taking the steps needed to stay safe at work. Domestic violence training and safety planning will help managers identify warning signs and provide a safe environment for all employees.

Guns in the hands of perpetrators of domestic violence are a deadly combination. In every one of the tragic domestic violence deaths during the past month, the murder weapon was a gun. In several of these cases, there were prior instances of violent behavior. And in at least one case, the gun was used by a person who was not legally entitled to possess a firearm. A close look at our state and federal gun laws, and enforcement of those laws, will help reduce the incidence of lethal violence.

Women and their children have died in shocking numbers in the past 30 days. This is not the Oregon we know and love, and it is heartening to see state and local leaders responding.

State and community leaders must continue to come together and commit to ensuring change. The effort must be practical, effective and sustainable. We owe it to the victims, their families and our communities to learn from and act on the lessons of these tragedies.

Bruce Goldberg, M.D., is director of the Oregon Department of Human Services and director-designee of the Oregon Health Authority. Robin Christian is executive director of Children First for Oregon. Sybil Hebb is an attorney with the Oregon Law Center and the Alliance to End Violence Against Women.


Teen Perspectives on Romantic Relationships

Telling It Like It Is: Teen Perspectives on Romantic Relationships

The majority of teens have been involved in a romantic relationship.

This brief, Telling It Like It Is: Teen Perspectives on Romantic Relationships, summarizes findings from focus groups that explored what teens themselves have to say about these relationships. 

Among the findings:

– Teens view respect, trust, and love as essential to healthy relationships.

– Teens have a clear understanding and expectation of what defines a healthy romantic relationship.

– Teens’ relationships typically fall short of their own standards of healthy romantic relationships.

– Infidelity, relationship violence, and few role models contribute to teens’ low expectations for healthy relationships.

Telling It Like It Is: Teen Perspectives on Romantic Relationships is presented by Child Trends