Thursday, August 2, 2012

Miami county: Right to be free of domestic violence

Miami-Dade County has become the first in the United States to recognize that the protection from domestic violence is a fundamental human right.
Titled Resolution Expressing The Board’s Intent To Declare That The Freedom From Domestic Violence Is A Fundamental Human Right – it was passed, unanimously, by the Board of County Commissioners on July 17.
Personifying the day-to-day reality for domestic violence victims, the resolution outlines the effect of domestic violence on communities within Miami Dade – the psychological, financial, and physical effects, to name a few. The resolution thus:
► Compares the number of domestic violence offenses in the county in 2011 (9,313) with the number of arrests (about half).
► Cites the huge number of crisis hotline and direct service calls for assistance, and notes how domestic violence disproportionately impacts women with low income, women of color, and women who have disabilities.
► Emphasizes that local governments “bear a moral responsibility to secure this human right on behalf of their residents.”
► Concludes with a call to action for the government of Miami-Dade County: the resolution “serves as a charge” to all government agencies in Miami-Dade to incorporate its principles into their policies and practices.
Introducing the measure – was Commissioner Sally A. Heyman (right), a longtime advocate for domestic violence victims. She coauthored the resolution along with my students at University of Miami School of Law Human Rights Clinic, Rashanda McCollum and Michael Stevenson. In addition to working with Commissioner Heyman, the students engaged with domestic violence advocacy groups across south Florida, gathering insight as to their shared goals and the most effective means by which to accomplish them.After the resolution’s passage, Commissioner Heyman and Michael Stevenson co-authored an op-ed that was published in the Miami Herald.
Miami-Dade follows in the footsteps of actions by 2 other local governments; specifically, an October 2011 Cincinnati resolution and a March 2012 Baltimore resolution. Professors Margaret Drew, then at the University of Cincinnati, and Leigh Goodmark, of the University of Baltimore, worked tirelessly with their clinic students and local city council members on those resolutions.
Other jurisdictions may soon follow suit.
At a recent clinicians’ conference sponsored by the Association of American Law Schools, Professor Goodmark and I led an “affinity group” of approximately 20 clinicians interested in initiating Domestic Violence and Human Rights Resolution Projects in their cities, municipalities, and states.
Moving forward following the resolution’s unanimous passage, Miami Law’s Human Rights Clinic students hope to engage local police departments and other government agencies to help realize and implement the resolution’s stated goal: to join world leaders in declaring that domestic violence is a human rights concern, and that local governments act as the first line of defense.

(Sincere thanks to Michael Stevenson for his gracious assistance in drafting this blog post.)

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