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Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project

This case concerned a woman who was beaten viciously beaten by her boyfriend at a party at his house, after she got upset with him.  The trial court found the man guilty of assault and criminally convicted him, but the judge repeatedly blamed the woman for "provoking" the violence and "bringing it on herself." The court entered mutual civil protection orders-- one against each party.   DV LEAP co-counseled the amicus brief with a talented and dedicated team from Mintz Levin and placed the case with top-notch attorneys from Crowell & Moring. DV LEAP's amicus brief was essentially a primer on the reform purposes of the civl protection order statute, and how many courts re-victimize victims of domestic violence by blaming them for the violence. DV LEAP's brief ends by explaining that this kind of hostility to victims is common, and asked the D.C. Court of Appeals to "send a message to the lower courts that civil protection orders should further protection of victims and accountability of perpetrators for unlawful violence."  On July 3, 2008, the D.C. Court of Appeals issued a powerful decision that sends exactly this kind of message to the lower courts. 

DV LEAP is gratified that the D.C. Court of Appeals held that a court may not enter a CPO against a victim of abuse in order to "protect her from herself" or to punish someone who "provokes" the violence.  Rather, courts must enter CPO's based on the purposes of the statute which is to protect those in danger of future violations.  DV LEAP is especially pleased that the Court of Appeals recognized that a mutual CPO "shifts the responsibility for the abuse onto the victim and does not hold the abuser accountable." Also of great importance is the fact that the D.C. Court of Appeals emphasized that the civil protection order process and criminal prosecutions serve distinct purposes and a victim should not be penalized or blamed for pursuing a CPO as well as criminal prosecution.

Read the full court opinion.