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U.S. criticized for failure to protect domestic violence victims

The U.S. government has come under criticism from a United Nations human rights expert for its failure to provide adequate protection of women from domestic violence by people they are in a relationship with. The UN Special Rapporteur on the topic of violent acts against women (and their consequences and causes) said the U.S. track record in the area included endemic failures.

She called for further investigation into the problem, and a reexamination of how the U.S. punishes victims in domestic violence crimes, as well as of the protective measures for victims that are currently in place. While family law in the U.S. does provide for the court issuance of orders of protection to battered spouses or cohabitants, she expressed the belief that clearer standards for their enforcement are needed, as well as clear consequences for failure to enforce issued protective orders.

One impetus for the statement was a finding by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that a police department failed to protect a woman and her three young daughters against domestic violence by her former husband. While she had a court order of protection against him, and contacted police eight times on two succeeding days because her children were missing, police allegedly took no action.

The ex-husband then showed up in his pickup truck at the local police department. With the children in his vehicle, he began shooting at the building. In a subsequent gun battle there with police, he was fatally injured, as were the three girls, who were 7, 8, and 10 years old.

The Commission expressed its concern that the police failed to enforce the protective order or thoroughly investigate the woman's complaints.

As this case shows, it is extremely important that law enforcement officers and the courts take cases of domestic violence seriously. Hopefully this call to action will encourage authorities in Louisiana and across the country to provide greater assistance to victims of domestic violence.

Source: Channel 6 News, "UN calls on the U.S. government to better protect women from domestic violence," Aug 24, 2011.

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