ACLU seeks to prevent eviction of domestic violence victim

Dec 5, 2013

Allison Ben
Allison Ben
Credit ACLU of Michigan

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Fair Housing Center of Southeastern Michigan  have asked the Inkster Housing Commission to drop its effort to evict a pregnant woman from one of its apartments. They say the Commission is evicting her because of domestic violence she has suffered while a tenant.

Allison Ben, the tenant, has obtained two personal protection orders against Larry Gee, the father of her four-year-old daughter. The most recent order was issued in 2013. Yet Gee has repeatedly come to her home uninvited and attacked her, according to the letter from the ACLU to the Commission.

The ACLU claims that Ben is being evicted because her batterer disturbed the peace and because he caused damage to property while beating her.

Last spring, Ben called the police when Gee tried to enter her apartment. The ACLU says that after the Inkster Housing Commission police officer told Gee to leave, the officer told Ben she risked eviction if she made similar calls again. It says that in July, Gee was arrested and convicted for domestic violence after forcing his way into the apartment and punching Ben in front of their daughter.

"The policy of evicting domestic violence survivors has the perverse effect of giving batterers the power to exercise control over women and make them homeless," said ACLU of Michigan Legal Director Michael Steinberg, adding that the practice of evicting battered women is a statewide problem. 

Steinberg said to evict Ben for the acts of her batterer violates the Violence Against Women Act, among other state and federal laws.  "The Inkster Housing Commission must put an end to this illegal policy that re-victimizes women and reinforces the dangerous stereotype that women who experience domestic violence must be allowing it to happen," he said.

Steinberg said both private and public landlords do not want violence in their buildings, but "they should be working with women to help protect them, rather than evicting them for acts outside their control."

Today's eviction hearing was adjourned until January 7.  Steinberg hopes the matter can be resolved amicably before then.

The Inkster Housing Commission did not respond to a request for comment.

Virginia Gordan, Michigan Radio Newsroom