DEMAND EQUALITY FOR RACIAL-MINORITY DOMESTIC ASSAULT VICTIMS IN UNDERSERVED COMMUNITIES
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Sabrina Nguyen was a beloved daughter, sister, and friend to many before being brutally murdered on January 2, 2020 by her ex-boyfriend at the age of only 18-years old. Between the months of April 2019 and December 2019 Sabrina made many pleas for police intervention, filed an Order of Protection and an Intimidation Report, and repeatedly told officers that her life was at risk, yet the Memphis Police Department failed her, as they historically have when dealing with racial-minority women who live in underserved communities experiencing domestic violence. Sabrina took all of the right steps and was promised protection, yet officers continuously showed her a different level of care than they statistically have shown to white women or women with higher socio-economic status who have experienced domestic violence. The choices made by officers here directly led to the death of Sabrina Nguyen.
SABRINA’S LAST CALLS FOR HELP
The Memphis Police Department was first made aware of the violence Sabrina was experiencing in April of 2019 when Sabrina was assaulted while moving out of her ex-boyfriend’s home. In June, Sabrina was once again assaulted by her ex-boyfriend and officers took him into custody while Sabrina went through the process of having an Order of Protection put in place against him, which she was told would prevent any contact between the two. In August, Sabrina was kidnapped and assaulted by her ex-boyfriend. In September, Sabrina’s ex-boyfriend stalked her home and attempted to break in.
In December, 911 calls were made by Sabrina on at least 11 separate occasions. Sabrina filed assault charges on December 10th after being kidnapped and assaulted by her ex-boyfriend which led to his arrest on the same day. He bonded out on December 11th and by December 14th, Sabrina was already receiving more haunting phone calls from him. He was arrested again on December 17th and posted bond on December 18th. On December 19th he kidnapped Sabrina and pulled a knife on her.
On December 20th he kidnapped Sabrina again and drove her across multiple states until finally dropping her off at the Memphis Police Department on December 23rd. Sabrina made officers aware on the 23rd that her ex-boyfriend had stolen her vehicle and she called MPD repeatedly in the days after the incident to check on the progress they had made in getting her vehicle back. A warrant was finally, after 6 days, issued for the theft of Sabrina’s vehicle, but officers did not make any documented attempt to make an arrest or get Sabrina’s vehicle back between the time of the warrant being issued and Sabrina’s death.
On January 1st, 2020 Sabrina’s brother reported Sabrina as a missing person and provided officers with the address of Sabrina’s ex-boyfriend. On January 2nd, 2020 officers found Sabrina’s dead body lying on a sidewalk near a busy intersection. According to an affidavit, “[t]he Scene Officer recognized [the body to be that of] Sabrina Nguyen from multiple incidents involving her ex-boyfriend.”
Sabrina’s ex-boyfriend kidnapped and assaulted her on multiple occasions, made terroristic threats towards her, stole her vehicle, violated bail conditions, and stalked her. He was arrested twice and had 8 formal charges brought against him in the month of December alone. Officers knew where he lived and had arrested him at that location previously. Officers knew that Sabrina desperately needed her vehicle in order to work and to get away from dangerous situations. Despite all of this information, officers chose not to act between December 23rd and January 1st and that choice led to their finding of Sabrina’s dead body on January 2nd. Officers were given countless signs that should have led them to make different choices, choices that would have saved Sabrina, yet due to her gender, race and position in society, they made decisions that led to her death instead.
WHY WE MUST DEMAND CHANGE
Officers across the nation continuously fail to acknowledge diversity when handling situations of domestic violence. Women as a whole are more vulnerable to experiencing domestic violence and women of color are the most likely demographic to experience domestic violence while simultaneously being the most disproportionately affected by homicides resulting from intimate-partner-violence. It is well known that social position and economic status also play a huge part in resources and services made available to individuals and that stands true in situations of domestic violence as well.
Even if officers were offering the exact same level of protection to these racial-minority women in underserved communities as they were to their white, well-off counterparts, they would not be taking into consideration the fact that many of these techniques and services would be ineffective to this population of women because of the unique nature of their experiences with domestic violence. Officers must be held accountable in situations like Sabrina’s wherein they choose to ignore the seriousness of the situation and make decisions that lead to deaths that could easily have been prevented.
The actions suggested below are some of the changes which we believe would have saved Sabrina Nguyen if implemented by the Memphis Police Department, and if implemented across the United States, will function to protect many more women like Sabrina in the future.
1. Notification systems must be put in place which automatically notify domestic violence victims when their arrested aggressor becomes eligible to post bond or is released.
2. Police officers must be required to have higher levels of training in preventative and intervening measures which require the consideration of societal factors such as gender, race, and socio-economic status that make violence more likely to occur or more likely to result in death within certain populations.
3. Police departments must be required to create and keep an up-to-date database for domestic-abuse related incidents and information which would allow officers and 911-operators to be automatically made aware of any history or patterns of domestic violence when searching someone’s name in the department’s already-existing system.
4. Demand transparency of police departments by requiring a yearly public report detailing the funds spent and measures taken to prevent further predictable deaths of women of color in underserved communities who experience domestic violence. This report should also provide yearly statistics of domestic violence in that department’s jurisdiction and the deaths resulting from such instances which can be broken down by race, gender, and socio-economic status.
5. Demand that officers have ongoing education and training of the unique realities, difficulties, and needs of racial-minority women in underserved communities experiencing domestic assault.
6. Demand the creation of programs that are catered towards racial-minority women in underserved communities which allows them to report domestic violence to non-police officers and provides them with resources and services that allow them to safely get away from their aggressor even if they are fearful of having police involved.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing domestic violence, please reach out for help. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can be called 24 hours a day at 1(800) 799-7233 and their website, thehotline.org, provides contact information for local resources in all 50 states.
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