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Evicted for Reporting Domestic Abuse

Evicted for Reporting Domestic Abuse

When Kathy Cleaves-Milan’s boyfriend brandished a gun and promised to end both of their lives is she left him she knew it was time to involve the police, if not for herself for the sake of her daughter.

She made the call to police and got help, but a day later she received some surprising news: She was being evicted.

Why? According to the managers of the complex, she had violated the terms of her lease by reporting criminal activity to the police – that is for reporting her boyfriend’s death threats.

“I was punished for protecting myself and my daughter,” Cleaves-Milan, 36, said.

Did they expect her to choose between staying with her abusive boyfriend or keeping a roof over her families head?

Cleaves-Milan’s lawyers have filed a suit against Aimco, the company that owns and operates Elm Creek Apartments, arguing that her eviction was a form of sex discrimination based on her sex and status as a domestic violence victim. Aimco, however, argues that the eviction wasn’t solely based on the domestic violence, but also on Cleaves-Milan’s ability to make rent without her boyfriend.

So while the company admits that Cleaves-Milan’s status as a domestic violence victim certainly influenced their decision to serve her with eviction papers, they also assumed that a single woman would be unable to make rent without a man by her side.

Cleaves-Milan says her income being a factor in her eviction is “simply untrue.” Aimco further maintains that Cleaves-Milan, who worked in medical sales at the time, actually left the complex on her own accord because she could not afford to stay without her boyfriend’s financial support – another false and ridiculous claim.

To add insult to injury, this past July Cleaves-Milan received a call from a collection agency seeking nearly $3,800 they claimed she owed for the early termination of her lease. She returned home a day after telling police her boyfriend threatened to kill her to find a 10-day eviction notice taped to her door. She didn’t terminate her lease early – she was given no choice in the matter. Luckily Aimco dropped this fee, but only after the Chicago Tribune inquired.

This story is horrific and unfortunately not uncommon. While the Violence Against Women Act of 2005 protects domestic abuse victims who live in public or subsidized housing from eviction, the law concerning private landlords is unclear. This lack of protection for women who rent in the private market creates a disincentive for women to report abuse, trapping women, and often their children, in violent relationships with no legal recourse.

Women like Cleaves-Milan should not have to choose between their safety and that of their families and having a roof over their heads. They also shouldn’t worry that reporting abuse will leave them without health insurance as we discovered last week was the case in 8 states and D.C. Reporting domestic abuse, getting help, and leaving violent relationships is difficult enough without the support of our judicial and healthcare system.

Where is the justice – or humanity – in having victims of abuse, those who need our help most, suffer more?

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Picture via Chicago Tribune - http://dailyme.com/gallery/2009101500002267/victims-domestic-violence-call-lead-eviction.html

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65 comments

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6:56AM PST on Jan 7, 2012

Domestic Violence should never be a reason for being evicted. That is being violated twice for a CRIME by two different people. What a shame. It's too bad that a person should have to suffer for reporting any crime. And to enlighten the lady who said that a restraining order is giving an abuser a good reason to be even angrier - She should have kept reporting him - evey time he does any kind of abuse. Restraining orders are not always the answer but they sure as the world help. And if enforced by law, they can be a life saver. Some abusers do break those orders, I know, but the victim needs to make sure that the law enforcememt steps in EVERY time. These abusers are usually slow learners. They need to have the law enforced how ever many times it takes. I know reporting isn't easy. I know some law enforcement officers take it lightly. Until they find themselves without a job for not doing their job and until the top officers make domestic violence a priority, the abuse will never be taken seriously. That is the shame of it. When all of us start reporting abuse every time we suspect it happening and by making all our own peers know that we will report these crimes, maybr then law enforcement and society as a whole will wake up. Domestic violence is one of the biggest killers of women today. Every person in every city, town or village needs to be aware of what goes on around them and start reporting abuse EVERY time they suspect it happening. You are all able to call 911 and rep

10:13AM PST on Nov 15, 2009

This story broke my heart. Does anyone know what is going on now? I would appreciate any information re: this article.

10:49AM PST on Nov 3, 2009

Kathleen, how can she evict the abuser?????? She would first have to file a police report. That is what she did, and that is what got her evicted. Surprised we did not see this one in the news?????? Punishing people for reporting a crime. Nice job USA.

5:16AM PST on Nov 2, 2009

A restraining order is a "piece of paper", a joke, and will NOT stop someone if they want to get you. Thats what everyone told me to do. "Get a restraining order". THAT would have pissed my ex husband off even more and he probably would have killed me BECAUSE of it. Violent abusive men like that will get even MORE violent if they know you have told someone, or if someone finds out, they think you told. I remember my ex getting mad because the doctor told me in front of him that I did not sustain my head injuries by falling down the stairs. I just hoped the doctor would shut up, because my ex would have said I TOLD the doctor, and that would have been enough reason for another beating.

No. A restraining order is telling someone, and that only makes them madder.

10:15AM PST on Nov 1, 2009

Everyone spread the word
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12:56PM PDT on Oct 28, 2009

She can evict the abuser with a restraining order unless he is the sole owner of the house--if so, she can still get a restraining order to allow her time to move and relocate. If she has no money she can go to a shelter ---support shelters and post shelter programs that offer retraining and child care.

11:26AM PDT on Oct 27, 2009

Can this world get anymore stupider???? This is another case of WTF were they thining when they made that policy!

12:42PM PDT on Oct 26, 2009

This is an outrage! As a survivor of domestic violence myself, I know the trials that lay ahead of her. It is difficult enough to take the steps to report someone and walk away, without ignorance in society like this making it harder!

If they are not allowed to report ANY criminal activity, I would be very concerned about what kind of neighbors I had. Let's hope this woman has a good support system in place.

8:39PM PDT on Oct 25, 2009

This is a horrible lesson: Read a lease before taking an apartment...some lease are 7 pages long, like buying a house but having that in a lease is a RED FLAG...what is management doing? Selling drugs, promoting prostitution...Read your lease...

6:59AM PDT on Oct 25, 2009

Even if it IS illegal to have such a stupid thing in a lease, its an unwritten rule in some neighborhoods that you don't call the police for anything.

Yes, animal abuse and dog fighting are big in places like that. Why they went back to allowing pets in places like that I'll never know. I know that statement won't be popular, but a sad fact for all the animals in a place like that. THEY shouldn't have to suffer.

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