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Court Discusses Battered Woman Syndrome


Domestic violence laws have changed to become more responsive to the needs of battered victims even when their behavior seems to be erratic. A New York Sex Crimes Lawyer said that victims of domestic violence do not respond in predictable ways, they do have certain patterns of behavior that are common. In 2005, the Federal Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005 (VAWA 2005) was signed into law. This law prevents victims of domestic violence from eviction from their homes following incidents of domestic violence. Prior to this law, it was common for property owners to evict domestic violence victims from their homes following a violent episode. It was tantamount to victimizing the battered twice.

VAWA 2005 (42 USC § 1437f[c][9][B]) states that “An incident or incidents of actual or threatened domestic violence. . .shall not be good cause for terminating the assistance, tenancy, or occupancy rights of the victim of such violence.” Section C(i) provides that “criminal activity directly relating to domestic violence. . .shall not be cause for termination. . .if the tenant. . .is the victim. . .of that domestic violence. . .” In essence, the property owner can evict the primary aggressor. A New York Sex Crimes Lawyer said the property owner may not evict the victim of domestic violence.

This law is important since many times, the victim is evicted because keeping them on the property exposes the property owner to complaints from other residents. The home is disruptive to neighbors who complain to the property owner or manager. The easy way out is to evict everyone in that home and rent to a family who does not cause a disturbance. Clearly, this is not fair to the victim. In fact, offenders will often threaten their victims to submit quietly so that the neighbors do not complain and they suffer eviction.

On April 1, 2008, a woman tenant of public housing on 420 East 102nd Street in the County of New York and the City of New York stabbed her ex-live in boyfriend. A Queens Sex Crimes Lawyer said the police responded to the scene and arrested her. The court dropped the case when they determined that she was the victim of domestic abuse and was acting in self-defense on the night in question. After the incident, the manager of the public housing facility notified the victim that she was in violation of her lease because she had engaged in illegal and violent behavior during domestic disputes.

The manager claimed that she had gotten numerous complaints that the victim was loud and boisterous. In fact, the property manager claims that in March of 2007, the victim received an order of protection from the Criminal Court. However, the victim allowed the suspect, ex-boyfriend, to return to the property in violation of the order on several occasions. In fact, she claimed that several times security for the property had to respond to loud fighting and screaming from the victim when the suspect was present. The property manager cited one incident when the victim used profanity toward building security when they refused to allow the suspect to go to the victim’s apartment. The property owner stated that the stabbing on April 1st demonstrates that the victim is a violent threat to the security of other tenants in the building.

The property manager failed to provide a time frame for any of the prior domestic disturbances. A Nassau County Sex Crimes Lawyer said that she failed to have first-hand knowledge of any of the arguments. All of her testimony was hearsay. The property manager was unable to demonstrate who initiated the conflicts at the apartment. The property manager did not produce any evidence or affidavits from any other involved parties. There was no documentation provided from hospital records, police reports, and statements from the security guard, other tenants, employees, or witnesses. The property manager had no reliable basis to show how she obtained her information. She presented an incident report filed the following day from a security guard on the property.

The security guard’s report was not a sworn statement or affidavit. It described the events of that evening as far as he was involved. He claims that while he was at work as a security guard on the property, he that a person notified him that someone had fallen on the grounds. He went to that location and found the ex-boyfriend lying on the ground. The man told the security guard that he had been stabbed. This report merely named the victim as a person who was involved in the stabbing and not necessarily as the perpetrator or primary aggressor in the incident. Because this security guard was not a witness to the assault, his report is also hearsay. The report did not identify the original complainant. The only mention of the victim in the report was to identify that there was an active protection order against the injured man. It did not specify that the victim stabbed him.

The victim claims that she did not stab him. The charges were dismissed against her by the courts. She claims that as a victim of domestic violence, the property owner cannot evict from her apartment based on the actions of the suspect. The victim asked the court to consider the extensive history of domestic violence calls to her residence. The court recognizes that the claim presented that the victim allowed the suspect to return to the apartment after a protection order was obtained, does not in itself dispute the victim’s claim of domestic violence. The court acknowledged that battered woman syndrome is a well-established concept in law and science. The court states that the cycle of domestic violence is such that it is common for a battered woman to react with seemingly inconsistent behavior. In essence, a battered woman will also act with the concept of anticipatory self-defense when others would not perceive a threat. Battered woman syndrome explains the behavioral pattern of abused women and the effects that it has on their conduct.

The court quoted renowned expert on battered women syndrome, Joan M. Schroeder when she wrote that a battered woman may change her mind about prosecuting the batterer and withdraw her complaint, refuse to testify as a witness, or recant her testimony. This contention shows that the change of mind demonstrated by the victim in this case about prosecuting her batterer and allowing him to return to her apartment is consistent with victim behavior. Because battered women syndrome is cyclical in nature, the woman may allow the man to return to their home during what is called the “honeymoon phase” following an incident of violence. The woman becomes attuned to the cycle over time and is capable of predicting an episode of oncoming violence. Following the violent episode, the cycle returns to the “honeymoon phase” and the abuser is apologetic and charming.

The victim in this case asked the court for a summary judgment granting that she not be evicted under VAWA 2005. The court agreed with her. She was granted a summary judgment, and returned to her apartment. At Stephen Bilkis & Associates, their Domestic Violence Lawyers have convenient offices throughout New York and the Metropolitan area. If you or someone you know is facing an action involving WAVA 2005, it is important to have a NY Domestic Violence Attorney assist you. Don’t lose your home because you don’t have a Criminal Attorney to represent you.

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