New York, March 1, 2010—Caroline Bettinger-López of Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Clinic will present a groundbreaking training manual for lawyers and advocates working on behalf of domestic violence victims at Fordham Law School’s 14th annual conference on domestic violence March 2.
Entitled “Human Rights and Domestic Violence: An Advocacy Manual,” the manual frames and reinforces a human rights approach to domestic violence cases, and underscores the growing interest among U.S. lawyers and advocates in applying international human rights strategies to address their clients’ needs.
It covers domestic violence law regarding physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and child custody, and also human trafficking in the U.S., housing and forced evictions, and genital mutilation crimes in New York City. The manual also and includes a chapter about the little-known subject of domestic violence within the LGBT community.
Eight students from the Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic and Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic researched and wrote the training manual; it offers guidance on how relevant human rights treaties, instruments, jurisprudence, and other sources may be useful for domestic violence advocacy. It is divided into seven chapters, and aims to serve as a quick reference for advocates. The students hope the manual will start conversations about the relevance of international human rights law to everyday domestic violence cases, and help advocates choose the best strategy for their clients, cases, initiatives, and campaigns.
The project was overseen by López, acting director of the Human Rights Clinic, and Professor Suzanne Goldberg, clinical professor and director of the Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic at the Law School “We recognize that human rights strategies are not a magic bullet for resolving the complex and myriad dilemmas posed by domestic violence,” said Bettinger-López “but hopefully, they can offer additional tools in an advocate’s toolkit.”
The Fordham conference, “Expanding Our Vision: Human Rights, Victims’ Rights and Approaches to Diverse Families” will feature Bettinger-Lopez, who will update participants on the ground-breaking case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Jessica Gonzales v. United States (the case descended from Castle Rockv. Gonzales, before the U.S. Supreme Court). Bettinger-Lopez represents Jessica Gonzales (now Jessica Lenahan), whose three daughters were killed after the Castle Rock, Colo. police failed to enforce a restraining order against her estranged husband. Lenahan is a featured speaker at the conference. Bettinger-López will also discuss the application and impact of human rights law at the local, national and international levels.
Domestic violence within the LGBT community has been overlooked by the mainstream media, despite its extensive coverage of the topic in general. The chapter on domestic violence in gay families teaches advocates that many gay and lesbian individuals in same-sex relationships, as well as people who identify as transgender, also experience domestic violence, struggling with similar problems as heterosexual domestic violence victims.
Many studies report that domestic violence between same-sex partners happens just as frequently as domestic violence between opposite-sex partners. The manual spells out that lesbians and gays face distinct legal barriers. But two concepts in international human rights law mandate that LGBT domestic violence victims be afforded the same legal protection as heterosexual domestic ones: the right to equality before the law, and the principle of non-discrimination.
Note: Caroline Bettinger-López and Suzanne Goldberg acknowledge Christina Brandt-Young (New York Legal Assistance Group), Jeanmarie Fenrich (Fordham Law School), Virginia Goggin (New York Legal Assistance Group), Terry Lawson (Legal Services NYC), Amanda Norejko (Sanctuary for Families), Sandra Park (ACLU Women’s Rights Project), and Cathy Selin (STEPS to End Family Violence) for their guidance and support in producing this Manual and for their vision in creating the Domestic Violence and Human Rights panel at the Fordham Conference.
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