The Colorado Supreme Court is considering a case that could drastically change how much anonymity domestic-violence victims receive when seeking help, reports the Denver Post. The court heard arguments yesterday questioning whether a state statute allows shelters to keep all communication with victims and their records secret. Advocates have credited the privilege with keeping victims of domestic abuse safe from those who hurt them. Defense attorneys argue that such a protection creates a “special class” of witnesses in criminal cases and possibly obscures abuse of the domestic violence support system.
Victim advocates are looking to Colorado because this is the first time a state supreme court has been set to define the scope of a domestic violence confidentiality statue. County judges usually dismiss or quash requests for records based on the law. Colorado is one of 38 states that protect the communication between domestic violence victims and victim advocates, says a brief filed by advocate organizations. In the case at issue, the alleged victim told investigators that a man abused her. She originally told people her injuries were from falling down the stairs. A judge ordered the Alliance Against Domestic Abuse to turn over general information about the type of assistance the woman received, but the alliance refused.