Crisis In The Family Courts

Jessica Gonzales- Inter-American Commission on Human Rights


This is the first case from the U.S. involving violence against women to ever be heard before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and people can actually watch it live over the Internet.

Jessica Gonzales (now Lenahan) sadly lost her case against the Castle Rock [Colorado] police in the U.S. Supreme Court.  They held the police had no duty to protect her children by enforcing her order of protection, despite clear law in Colorado mandating that police arrest  anyone in violation of an order of protection.  The failure resulted in her ex-husband killing all three of their children.  Her case, now reframed as a violation of her human rights by the U.S. government, will be presented before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights this coming Wednesday (Oct. 22nd).

It is officially scheduled from 3:15 to 4:15 pm (Eastern Time)in Washington, DC at 1889 F St., NW  at the corner of 19th St.  Her information will be posted on the ACLU’s web site.  For those who can’t attend in person (most readers, I suspect), but would like to hear the arguments, read the draft of what she plans to post on the ACLU web site, which ends with how to access the court’s hearing on-line.  (And one can listen in on about 5 languages, including English.) 

Note that she will testify herself, as well as be represented.  Please feel free to pass this on to others likely to be interested in seeing this case.  It is an amazing opportunity.  The IACHR court grants only a few hearings even when it takes cases.  Previously it heard issues around standing and exhaustion of remedies in this case. Feel free to pass this on to others who might want to watch this case.

All my best, Joan Zorza
Editor, Domestic Violence Report


*Jessica (Gonzales) Lenahan blog post *

Jessica and her three murdered daughters

My name is Jessica Lenahan and I am a survivor of domestic violence.  On Wednesday I will make my second appearance before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington, DC.  The IACHR is responsible for promoting and protecting human rights throughout the Americas.  I turned to the IACHR three years ago because the justice system in the United States abandoned me.

In June 1999, my estranged husband, Simon Gonzales, abducted my three young daughters in violation of a domestic violence restraining order I had obtained against him three weeks before.  I repeatedly contacted and pleaded with the Castle Rock Police for assistance, but they refused to act.  Late that night, Simon arrived at the police station and opened fire.  He was killed and the bodies of my three girls were found murdered in the cab of his truck.

I sued the town of Castle Rock, Colorado for failing to enforce the restraining order I had against my husband at the time. The case went all the way up to the Supreme Court, but they ruled that the enforcement of a restraining order wasn’t mandatory under Colorado law.  I felt utterly abandoned: the police had failed in their duty to protect me and my girls, and the government told me there was nothing wrong with that.  I was sure that I would never have my day in court or a proper investigation of what happened.  I nearly gave up at that point – I had gone all the way to the Supreme Court, and I thought that was the end of the line.

But in December 2005, with the help of the ACLU and the Human Rights Clinic at Columbia Law School, I filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.  In March 2007, I testified before the IACHR – the first time I was allowed to tell my story in a legal forum.  Before this case, I never knew this regional system existed and never thought of my private issues as human rights violations.  I am the first survivor of domestic violence to bring an individual complaint against the United States for international human rights violations.

I want other people like me out there to know that this system exists to protect all of us, and that our government cannot just turn its back on us and get away with it.  Although the U.S. is always pointing its finger at other countries for their human rights violations, there are plenty of violations occurring right here at home.  International human rights bodies like the IACHR give U.S. citizens the opportunity to have a voice, particularly those who have lost everything.

It is fitting that my hearing is being held in October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, an important marker of what continues to be one of the most dangerous issues facing women today.

To watch a webcast of the hearing on Wednesday go to:

For more information, contact:
*Selene Kaye, Advocacy Coordinator*
Women’s Rights Project | American Civil Liberties Union
125 Broad Street, 18th Floor, New York, NY 10004
T: 212.549.2645 | F: 212.549.2580 |

See previous post about Jessica’s case.

One Response

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  1. erikm said, on October 21, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    Anyone who is interested in more information about Jessica’s case can read about it and view relevant documents here:http://www.aclu-co.orgjust click on the homepage link that says: “Click here for the docket page.”

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