Assaulting our rights: how domestic violence laws curtail our fundamental freedoms

Published date06 July 2010
Date06 July 2010
Subject MatterHealth & social care,Sociology
57Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research • Volume 2 Issue 3 • July 2010 © Pier Professional Ltd
The United States Constitution represents the
wellspring of civil liberties for American citizens.
The Constitution, along with the Bill of Rights
and subsequent amendments, enumerates our
fundamental freedoms and outlines our unique
system of law, which, in the words of founding
father John Adams, assures that American
democracy remains a ‘government of laws and
not of men’.
‘Civil rights’ refer to the fundamental
freedoms of the individual. In particular, these
rights are rooted in the 14th Amendment to the
United States Constitution:
‘No State shall make or enforce any law
which shall abridge the privileges or
immunities of citizens of the United States,
nor shall any State deprive any persons
of life, liberty, or property, without due
process of law, nor deny to any person
within its jurisdiction the equal protection
of the laws.’
The 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868
to protect the rights of black people who
were newly freed from slavery by President
Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
Nonetheless, southern states passed a series of
‘Jim Crow’ laws during the following decades that
promoted racial segregation and discrimination
under the guise of ‘separate but equal’.
Beginning in 1917, the US Supreme Court
began to strike down these laws (Buchanan
v. Warley [1917] 245 US 60). Passage of the
Civil Rights Act (1964) marked the end of the
infamous Jim Crow era.
Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE)
The Violence Against Women Act was enacted in the United States in 1994. Fifteen years later,
it has become apparent that the law has given rise to numerous violations of fundamental
civil rights. These rights include freedom of speech, protection from governmental intrusion,
due process, freedom to marry and the right to privacy in family matters, right to parent
one’s own children, right to bear arms, right to be secure in their persons (probable-cause for
arrest), right to a fair trial, and equal treatment under the law. Each year, an estimated two
million Americans have their civil liberties violated by domestic violence laws. This article,
based on a report by SAVE (2010a), enumerates and documents these civil rights violations.
Violence Against Women Act; domestic violence; civil rights; civil liberties.
Assaulting our rights:
how domestic violence
laws curtail our fundamental

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