When a Missouri suburb turns victims into nuisances

They might ask you what you are doing about the violence being done to you (as they so often do).

You’ve already left; no small thing, indeed facing what is often the most lethal time for a survivor. You do what you’re supposed to do now: you call the cops. You seek basic protection from the man who continues to assault you.

You call four times in 2011 and 2012 — calling twice in six months, thereby earning the designation of “nuisance,” thereby qualifying for eviction. As though it’s somehow your fault, the frequency with which he threatens your safety.

You lose your right to live in the place you pay rent for, in the town you live in, for daring to seek police protection from an abusive person you just want out of your life. Daring to call 911 when someone is choking you.

They kick you out of your apartment. Ban you from the town for six months.

You lose your Section 8 Housing voucher. You live on the streets, homeless, for some time.

The next time he attacks you, he stabs your legs. You don’t call the police. You’re too scared. Doing that has already punished you enough. You take yourself to the hospital. They call the police, who now arrest, charge, incarcerate him.

What it takes to be free. What it costs.

You probably didn’t know how much trauma would follow the risky, courageous act of leaving, or the logical act of calling the police, when that didn’t stop the violence. You probably didn’t expect the government to be the one to inflict so much of that trauma. Why would you?

This is how some local policy as technical-sounding as a “nuisance ordinance” wreaks havoc on your life, here in Maplewood, Missouri, along with survivors of domestic violence in 30 states.