From September 2011 to February 2012, Missouri woman Rosetta Watson reportedly called the police multiple times to report abuse from her ex-boyfriend—once after he kicked through her front door and punched her in the face while she was in bed. According to the ACLU, doing so lost her her home.
This is because of something called a “nuisance law” that considers more than two calls to the police from the same address about domestic violence within a 180-day period to be a nuisance, and legally condones kicking that nuisance caller out of their house and banning them from the city for six months. Watson eventually moved to St. Louis, where the same ex-boyfriend broke into her house and stabbed her legs.
On Friday, the organization filed a lawsuit against the city of Maplewood, Missouri, on behalf of Watson. “The city of Maplewood violated Ms. Watson’s fundamental constitutional rights by enacting and enforcing a law that punishes crime victims merely because they ask for help,” said Tony Rothert, legal director of the Missouri ACLU in a statement. “Banishment from one’s home should never be the result of calling law enforcement for assistance.”
Similar nuisance laws are being passed across the country, in states like New York, Arizona and Wisconsin, with the alleged intention of encouraging landlords to take care of problems on their properties. But they increasingly force victims—largely of domestic violence—to choose between reporting their crimes at the risk of eviction, and staying quiet.