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Grieving mother secures landmark US domestic violence decision

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Summary of story from Amnesty International, tadalafil September 2, see 2011

For the past 12 years, Jessica Lenahan has fought to know the truth about the awful summer night in 1999 that ended in her three young daughters being found dead in the back of a pick-up truck.

Legal battles all the way to the US Supreme Court have not dealt with why the police were not required by law to protect her girls, despite knowing they were at risk of domestic violence at the time.

But a recent finding by an international human rights body may spur important reforms to improve protection for US victims of domestic violence.

“For so many years, women who are the victims of domestic violence have had the burden of proof,” said Lenahan.

“I’m a little bitter, but optimistic that this decision might be a way to help others.”

Local authorities in Castle Rock, Colorado knew that Lenahan and her daughters Leslie, Katheryn and Rebecca – aged 7, 8 and 10 – had long suffered domestic violence at the hands of her estranged husband Simon Gonzales.

But despite a court restraining order against Gonzales, police failed to respond to Lenahan’s repeated pleas for help – seven phone calls and a visit to the police station – after he arrived at their home unannounced on 22 June, 1999 and drove off with the girls.

Early the following morning, Gonzales drove to the Castle Rock police station and fired shots through the window, prompting a shoot-out with police that left him fatally wounded. After the gunfight ended, Leslie, Katheryn and Rebecca were found dead in the back of the truck.

Since then, US authorities from Castle Rock – right up to the US Supreme Court – have repeatedly denied Lenahan access to all the answers about how and when her daughters died, and she has never received any reparations for her suffering.

“I want them to tell me whose bullets actually killed my children, and where and when did they die?” Lenahan recently told Amnesty International.

While she feels that those questions may never be answered completely, the recent decision by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) gives her hope that she may finally see some positive change for others at risk of domestic violence.

IACHR, based in Washington, DC, promotes and defends human rights throughout the Americas. Once domestic legal avenues have been exhausted, victims of human rights violations can pursue their cases with the Commission, which recommends steps that governments can take to remedy the situation.

In August 2011, the IACHR published its report on the case, finding that US authorities “did not duly investigate the complaints presented by Jessica Lenahan before the death of her daughters. [They] also failed to investigate the circumstances of their deaths once their bodies were found.”

The Commission’s decision recommends that the USA examine how it fails domestic violence victims and enact comprehensive reforms at the local, state and federal levels to ensure that victims receive adequate protection from their abusers.

It is being hailed as a victory for domestic violence victims.

WVoN comment: It is a tragedy that this mother has not only lost her three children to police neglect, but also that she has had to fight for 12 years to get any explanations as to what exactly happened. The police department in question should be ashamed of themselves.

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