National Network to End Domestic Violence Official Website

escape this website SAFETY ALERT: If you are in danger, please use a safer computer, or call 911, a local hotline, or the U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 and TTY 1-800-787-3224. Learn more technology safety tips. There is always a computer trail, but you can leave this site quickly.

The National Network to End Domestic Violence. Click to return to the home page.

Text Size:

Action Alerts

Content

 Print 

June 1, 2013

NNEDV has joined the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence (PCADV) as amicus curiae in Briggs vs. Norristown, an important case before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  Under Norristown's disorderly behavior ordinance, the city penalizes landlords and tenants when the police respond to three instances of "disorderly behavior" within a four-month period.  The city encourages landlords to evict tenants who violate the ordinance, including victims of domestic violence."This mean-spirited ordinance pits the need for shelter against the need for safety from violence," said Gandy. "This is an economic justice issue. Any policy that dissuades victims from reaching out for help will have deadly consequences."

NNEDV Joins Challenge to Norristown Ordinance

"No victim of abuse should have to choose between calling the police and becoming homeless," said Kim Gandy, President and CEO of NNEDV, which joined the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence (PCADV) as amicus curiae in Briggs vs. Norristown, an important case before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Under Norristown's disorderly behavior ordinance, the city penalizes landlords and tenants when the police respond to three instances of "disorderly behavior" within a four-month period.  The city encourages landlords to evict tenants who violate the ordinance, including victims of domestic violence.

"This mean-spirited ordinance pits the need for shelter against the need for safety from violence," said Gandy.  "This is an economic justice issue.  Any policy that dissuades victims from reaching out for help will have deadly consequences."

Ms. Briggs, the plaintiff in the case, is a victim of severe domestic violence and was told by officers that she would be evicted if the police were called to her residence again.  She ended the relationship with her boyfriend in an attempt to stop the violence.  But as in many cases of domestic abuse, the violence escalated after she ended the relationship.  Ms. Briggs' ex-partner continued to violently attack her but she was too frightened to call the police because she knew she and her young daughter would face homelessness if they were evicted.  After the final incident of abuse, she was airlifted to a hospital with life-threatening injuries.

"We are fighting this ordinance in Pennsylvania to protect victims in our state and because we know that it has far-reaching consequences," said Peg Dierkers, Executive Director of PCADV.  "We hope our work helps to end these harmful ordinances across the nation."

The recently reauthorized federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) strengthens housing protection for victims of domestic violence, recognizing the deep connection between access to housing and safety for victims.  The law explicitly attempts to increase victims' access to safety and adequate law enforcement responses.

"This local ordinance is not only a violation of VAWA but is a significant step backward for victim safety," said Monica McLaughlin, NNEDV Senior Public Policy Specialist.

The ordinance in Pennsylvania is not unique.  Many localities have passed similar ordinances that have the same detrimental impact.

"If Ms. Briggs' neighbors had not called the police after this latest attack, she probably would have died," said Gandy.  "Is that the choice that Norristown, or any town, wants victims of violence to face?"