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Implementing the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights' Domestic Violence Ruling

By Caroline Bettinger-López, Julie Goldscheid, Sandra S. Park, Elizabeth M. Schneider, Ejim Dike, Lisalyn R. Jacobs, Margaret Drew & Mary Haviland

An Inter-American Commission on Human Rights decision that holds the United States responsible for human rights violations stemming from domestic violence is a new tool in combating gender violence. After Jessica Lenahan’s daughters were abducted and killed by her estranged husband, Lenahan sued in federal court to hold police responsible for failing to enforce her restraining order against her husband, but the U.S. Supreme Court found that the police department had no constitutional duty to enforce the order. Before the Inter-American Commission, Lenahan argued that the United States was obligated to adhere to international standards on protecting victims; the commission agreed. Advocates are devising ways to adopt the decision’s international human rights standards.

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