Women’s Study Scholar Says City Nuisance Laws May Discourage Battered Women From Calling Police

gretchenArnoldGretchen Arnold, an assistant professor of women’s and gender studies at Saint Louis University, is conducting research on nuisance laws. These laws that are now on the books of cities across the country call for fines for individuals who frequently make what are deemed unnecessary 911 calls to emergency services.

Dr. Arnold is concerned that these nuisance law will impact women’s willingness to call police when they are victims of domestic violence. Since many women suffer from repeatedly incidents of domestic violence, Dr. Arnold believes some women will be reluctant to call for help in fear that they will be prosecuted under nuisance laws.

“Our findings show that nuisance property laws enhance the abuser’s power over his victim, hold victims accountable for the abuse, exacerbate the class- and race-based risks many battered women already face and obscure the real crime of domestic violence,” Dr. Arnold said. “When battered women call 911 more than once for protection, it can trigger a nuisance law, which then treats her as the problem instead of the abuser and his behavior. She ends up being evicted for too many 911 calls while the real crime of intimate partner violence is ignored. And she is left to deal with his violence on her own.”

The American Civil Liberties Union’s Women’s Rights Project is leading the legal fight against these nuisance laws. They have published the report Silenced: How Nuisance Ordinances Punish Crime Victims in New York. It may be downloaded by clicking here.

Filed Under: Sexual Assault/Harassment


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