Why Doesn't She Just Leave - December 2003

Denver Women's Commission
Why Doesn't She Just Leave - December 2003

By Chaer Robert
for Zenith Magazine

"Why Doesn't She Just Leave?"

Only about one in three battered women who seek shelter can find room at a safehouse. And safehouses are short-term by design. Where does one go afterward? The tight housing market is a formidable barrier. She may need to move for her safety, yet risks a bad rental reference and credit report by a landlord if she leaves before her lease has expired. This can prevent her renting a new apartment. Just having called the police during violent incidents may prompt an eviction if repeated police presence is listed in the lease as grounds for eviction.

What would help keep victims safe?

1. Insure a victim of family violence has the right to call law enforcement without risking eviction.

2. Not allow property damage by a perpetrator to result in eviction of the victim.

3. Do not let the crimes of the perpetrator be reflected in rental references for the victim.

4. Require a victim of family violence to be released from her lease, or be relocated to a different unit at the discretion of the landlord.

The Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence is developing a bill for the 2004 State Legislative Session to accomplish these goals.

Battered women might also have to leave their job to be safe. Currently, Colorado allows victims of abuse to claim unemployment only when the violence has been documented, and when the victim is currently in counseling. Few people meet these criteria. Advocates will push this year to drop the requirement to be in counseling.