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:

To learn more about my case and the process that led to my petition to the IACHR, go to:

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Self Defense Sa...

Being able to defend yourself is not only a basic human right, it's the most important! Thank god for the second amendment because criminals prefer defenseless victims!


I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm a survivor of domestic violence too. I want to thank you for not giving up and for speaking out.

The Government ...

Relying on the government for protection only really works if you are rich or powerful. Most people can't afford to have their own personal bodyguards. That's why we have the right to keep and bear arms!

"We live in a world where more and more women are unaccompanied at odd hours, or they are vulnerable in dangerous places - a world where restraining orders are often ineffective and the police cannot be counted upon to arrive in time, if at all. In such a world, women must be able to protect themselves. In terms of both deterrence and lethal force, guns are among the most effective tools available for self-defense."
-- Mary Zeiss Stange, "Guns, like abortion, are a matter of choice"


No, it isn't a right. It's a well established legal principle that the government has no obligation to defend any particular person, or indeed, anybody at all.

Rights are things you can do *yourself*, which the government is prohibited from *obstructing*. As pointed out above, there is indeed a constitutional right to be able to defend yourself from domestic violence.

The ACLU is determined to deny that right exists.

ACLU Human Righ...

In response to Comment 4, the author highlights the fundamental difference between U.S. constitutional law and human rights law; while the Constitution does not impose an affirmative obligation on the U.S. to protect rights from violation by state or private actors, human rights law does. In the domestic violence context, human rights law requires that states not only put in place a legislative framework that protects women and children from such violence, but also take reasonable measures to ensure that that framework is effectively implemented. For example, in Jessica's case the Colorado police should have followed the terms of the restraining order that she had and explicit provisions of the state of Colorado's mandatory arrest laws, and arrested her estranged husband. The police, however, did little or nothing to effect his arrest and as a consequence Jessica's three daugheters were killed. All that human rights law required here was for the Colorado police to do their jobs and to follow the state's own laws. Because they failed to do as the law required, human rights law holds them responsible for their failures. This is why Jessica pursued her claims before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; because human rights standards are more protective than the U.S. Constitution.

Steven Watt, Senior Staff Attorney for the ACLU’s Human Rights Program


I get absolutely NO protection from the police where I live. The PFA that includes my daughter and myself, was violated over 28 times before anything was done..he was made to pay $10,000 straight bail after spending the night in jail. Then Violated it INSIDE the courtroom two more times Nov 10, 2008 and nothing was done.

The cops testified against me, saying they saw nothing on my face.. that could be because I had the ice pack on my eye during the whole visit, lifting it off 2 seconds for him to look.

These cops deslt with him before and are afraid of him.

As I am sad for your terrible loss Jessica and I feel for you. I am terrified what my ex will do if he gets a hold of our daughter.

The gun is my only option, I got my license to carry last week. I will use it to defend my daughter and myself.


Back in August 2, 2006 I was threatened by a woman and a mob of her friends. They left the property where the woman lived. Amongst the mob was a nine year old boy. The woman lead the mob to my house. She claimed her son/nephew told her that I had dropped my pants in front of him (I would never have imagined I would be accused of such, as I have a phobia of children). I called the police to report her. They claimed they could not do anything unless I got the address of the woman and the mob. The woman called the police and claimed I waved a gun at her and her friends. I was arrested and spent seven months of my life in jail until, I was forced to accept a plea deal/bargain. I lost my lifelong dream of being a member of the U.S. Army. I now have obtained proof that she lied via a transcript of the preliminary hearing from August 8, 2006. To make a long story short, I believe my civil rights as well as other rights were violated by the police,the DA and, by this person who chose to misuse the laws against violent crime to hurt me. What can I do? My life has been destroyed and I feel very disenfranchised and very distrustful of the system.


I cannot help but cry every time I think of what I weas put through based on lies.


My story is nowhere near as tragic as those of Jessica and Robe, but I need help. I was married for 22 years. 3 years ago my hysband left me for another woman. We lived an affluent lifestyle which I now know was due to his embezzling over $1 million from his family business. He is delaying any settlement in order to keep his family from finding out about the money. I have no money, and chose not to take alimony after I became aware of the embezzeling in order to prove myself innocent to the IRS. He has total control and he knows it. I can't get any relief through the courts, I may in the future, but I need money now. Where do I go? I have heard of Gay Rights groups that help out lesbians fighting their former husbands in court, what about heterosexual rights. Anything would be helpful!!


Changing the world one life at a time . . .

My daughter was murdered 14 years ago by a man who was stalking me.

My daughter and I were taken hostage by knife point and she was ultimately assassinated.

After her atrocious murder, I sued the police department of Jacksonville, Florida for not honoring the judge's order of protection as I phoned 911 numerous times to no avail.

We prevailed and a new law came out which resulted in the loss of immunity for the police department of Duval County and two other surrounding counties.

This means that if the police department chooses not to honor an order of protection, also called an injunction or restraining order, they will now be held liable where they previously were not.

It is my desire to make the law federal as I believe the police should be held liable for not honoring a judge's order of protection everywhere in the United States
not just in 3 counties in America although I am wholeheartedly thankful for the new law as we all need to begin somewhere.

I am in the process of doing research for my upcoming book to help Parents of Murdered Children and other Victims of Crime find healing through Jesus and our Father in Heaven as I did as well as spread the new law for the protection of those being stalked and harassed who have injunctions.

Furthermore, the book will include many resources to help these victims.

I am currently seeking those who have a testimony that they want to share in this project that God has put a compelling desire in my heart and spirit to complete before I leave this world. Do you know of those who have been saved and know the truth that might be interested?

Is there anyway our story could help you in what you are trying to do for our father God?

The new law changed policy and training manuals for police officers for part of Florida.

I know I need to spread the word of the new law and need guidance and support on expanding from 3 counties to the federal level.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Be safe and May God Bless you and protect you, May he smile upon you and be loving to you, May he turn his face toward you and give you all peace.

In Christ,

Lisa with Hope

I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.

~ Helen Keller ~


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