What's at Stake
In the first case brought by a survivor of domestic violence against the U.S. before an international human rights tribunal, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) found that the United States violated the human rights of Jessica Lenahan (formerly Gonzales) and her children. The decision underscores that the U.S. is failing in its legal obligation to protect women and girls from domestic violence.
In June 1999, Jessica Gonzales’ three young daughters, ages seven, nine and ten, were abducted by her estranged husband and killed after the Colorado police refused to enforce a restraining order against him.
Although Gonzales repeatedly called the police, telling them of her fears for her daughters’ safety, they failed to respond. Hours later, Gonzales’ husband drove his pick-up truck to the police department and opened fire. He was shot dead by the police. The slain bodies of the three girls were subsequently discovered in the back of his pickup truck.
Gonzales filed a lawsuit against the police, but in June 2005 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that she had no Constitutional right to police enforcement of her restraining order. She then filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, saying that the inaction of the police and the Supreme Court’s decision violated her human rights.
Status: In a landmark decision, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) found the U.S. government responsible for human rights violations against Jessica Lenahan (formerly Gonzales) and her three deceased children who were victims of domestic violence.
> Castle Rock v. Gonzales: Making the Court’s Protection Real (3/17/2005), interview with Jessica
> VIDEO: Watch Jessica’s Testimony Before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
(10/22/2008) English | Español
> BLOG: Protection from Domestic Violence is a Human Right (10/22/2008)
> NEWS: Colorado Domestic Violence Survivor Seeks Justice in International Tribunal (10/22/2008)
> IACHR’s Admissibility Decision (10/5/2007)
Jessica Gonzales v. U.S.A. - IACHR Testimony from Rashida Manjoo, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women
Jessica Gonzales v. U.S.A - Domestic Violence As a Form of Torture
Jessica Gonzales v. U.S.A - Benefits and Limitations of VAWA
Jessica Gonzales v. U.S.A. - Legal Documents
Jessica Gonzales v. U.S.A - Children's Rights
Jessica Gonzales v. U.S.A - Comparative Assessment of Domestic Violence Laws and Policies
Summary of Jessica Gonzales' Argument Before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
Jessica Gonzales v. USA - Government Response