Protection From Domestic Violence Is a Human Right

My name is Jessica Lenahan and I am a survivor of domestic violence. This afternoon 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 had 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 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 live webcast of the hearing this afternoon at 3:15pm EDT, go to: www.oas.org/oaspage/live/OASlive.asp.

To learn more about my case and the process that led to my petition to the IACHR, go to: www.aclu.org/womensrights/violence/gonzalesvusa.html.

View comments (13)
Read the Terms of Use

Rosa Torres-Sadler

Honorable Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor
Supreme Court of the United States
One First Street N.E.
Washington, DC 20543

Dear Honorable Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor:

My name is Rosaura Torres-Sadler.

I am a survivor of domestic violence and my abuser was a Pennsylvania State Trooper.

Honorable Sotomayor, on September 27, 2002 I was left in the middle of the road, bleeding and begging for help as Trooper Suber dragged me with his assigned state police vehicle. It is now seven years since the horrible morning that I was severely injured by this Pennsylvania State Trooper.

As a victim, of domestic violence, I did not receive proper protection from the Lancaster (PA) Police Department or by the Pennsylvania State Police. You’re Honor; I followed the legal procedures to ensure that I received the protection order from further abuse and in October 2002, I was given an order of protection. However, in November 2002 my order was “dismissed” and yet, I never dropped the charges. The information that I received from the Office of Prothonotary’s was that, I had the charges dismissed which in fact I did not dismiss.

On December 27, 2002 the attorney that represented me through “Women Against Abuse” in Lancaster, PA., forward a letter to me that stated that they have officially put the “trooper on notice not to harass me or come within one-hundred feet of my residence.” I was completely confused regarding the aforementioned because at no time did the district attorney or the judge presiding over my protection speak with me regarding my injuries as a result of the physical abuse perpetrated by Trooper Suber.

My case was overseen for three years under Federal Judge Gardner, in Allentown, PA. After several motions were filed; on June 6, 2007 Judge Perkins and Judge Gardner ruled that there was enough evidence to move forward with this case. The case has been refilled back on July 6, 2007 in the Lancaster Common Pleas Court. Unfortunately, because Trooper Suber was never charged criminal court, this case is now in civil court.

I sent a letter to Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell on February 9, 2003 and informed him that there was a “cover-up” within the Pennsylvania State Police regarding my case. Sadly, I never received a response from the Governor’s office.

You’re Honor; I believe that the due process of law does not pertain to me. This horrible abuse caused me to have retinal detachment from my left eye and other physical and emotional scars. I’ve lived in fear for many years but I believe in our justice system and will not give-up.

I appeal to you, Honorable Judge Sotomayor for any assistance that you can provide.

Sincerely,

Ms. Rosaura Torres-Sadler

Clay

How long can you be held in jail after posting bail? I was held for 18.5 hours after posting bail.

Anonymous

What about the climate of fear... No - not of a violent man - but of a woman who knows the switches that are flicked against a man - a man she's really pissed at right now... And even though he never touched her, and even if she acknowledges that fact - but instead - "suggests" that she might be "afraid" of him... And she's then coached in the proper phrasing for getting one of those Constitutionally amazing, colonial Pennsylvania retro-shackles, known as the 'PFA'? What about that domino chain that is set off against that poor fella... And when she changes her mind - and finds out she CAN'T un-do it... And what about probable cause, and Uhh - the ever so rare zealot that just happens to work in a uniform? Or that "Judge of the people" that - really - only gets about 12% of the vote, and that's still enough to guarantee her 2 million cash to, basically - yell at people like an angry mommy - and get paid to do it - and dental too!! What about those...? How do we reconcile THAT? Is this where someone chimes in with "It never happens like that"? It does. And after finding that out the hard way - I really can't argue with anything al queda wants to do... There is nothing left here worth saving or protecting - and that old French whore in the NY harbor... that's all she is anymore. America... Freedom... even Capitalism - they were way-cool. Seriously... Ask your grandparents!

Pages

Stay Informed