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ACLU intervenes in domestic violence lawsuit against municipality

A lawsuit recently filed in a federal court in Pennsylvania underscores issues relating to domestic violence, especially the concern that those on the receiving end of this crime are sometimes victimized twice.

The suit on behalf of a domestic abuse victim was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union ACLU) after it learned that the woman was evicted by a landlord from her apartment following a third complaint concerning violence occurring within the residence.

The obvious paradox that has struck attorneys from the ACLU and other advocates against violence across the country is this: The woman was the victim in all reported instances and, despite her fears and suffering, was the person who continued to suffer further following those incidents by being summarily evicted from her home.

The ACLU says that such an outcome violates a victim's constitutional right of due process, free speech and unreasonable search and seizure.

The lawsuit names the municipality of Norristown, a suburb of Philadelphia, as the defendant, with the ACLU alleging that a city ordinance "stripped domestic violence victims" of police protection by levying financial penalties on landlords upon a third call for disorderly conduct that requires a police response. In the woman's case, the landlord kicked her out of her home following that third contact.

Ironically, the woman, who was aware of the law, refrained from calling police at all, despite repeated beatings she received from her boyfriend. Other parties called, with those contacts cumulatively amounting to the "three strikes" that brought about the eviction.

The municipality has not responded to the lawsuit. A borough administrator denies that the ordinance is discriminatory or that it punishes violence victims.

Source: Philly.com, "ACLU: 'Three strikes' evicted battered woman from home," Frank Kummer, April 25, 2013

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