[Trigger warning: domestic violence, violence, murder]
The story of Phoukeo Dej-Oudom and her family is one you may have missed during all the recent events around #BlackLivesMatter, but Phoukeo’s story is one that deserves to be heard. In an all too common occurrence, Phoukeo and her three children were killed by Jason Dej-Oudom, her husband and abuser, after Nevada courts did nothing to protect her.
Jason killed Phoukeo and their three children, ages 9-15, before he turned the gun on himself. It was the violent and tragic end of a cycle of violence that included Phoukeo failing to attain a Temporary Protection Order from the Clark County District Court because her case did “not meet statutory requirements,” according to a Review Journal story about the murders.
More from that story:
Elizabeth MacDowell, associate law professor and director of the Family Justice Clinic at UNLV’s Boyd Law School, said the fact that Phoukeo Dej-Oudom did not have access to legal help is a crucial failure for the system. A lawyer could have drafted a motion that would have compelled the court to issue the protection order.
“This is a handwritten affidavit written by a woman in distress,” she said. “So often people aren’t able to tell their story clearly.”
According to the court’s statement, the woman’s application did not meet the statutory requirements because many of the incidents she listed “referenced situations in Ohio many years ago between 2000 and 2007 involving the father and guns, but nothing that had recently occurred in Las Vegas.”
Unfortunately, this kind of intimate partner violence and homicide is not an isolated incident in Nevada. According to a 2015 fact sheet from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Nevada consistently ranks first in domestic violence homicides. Domestic violence services in Nevada were contacted 65,000 times in 2014, according to the agency.
Nationwide, one in three women have experienced intimate partner violence and such violence accounts for 15 percent of all violent crime. The presence of a gun in the home during a domestic violence incident increases the risk of homicide by 500 percent, according to NCADV. In addition, 75 percent of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner and 94 percent of the victims are women.
With statistics like these, there is no doubt that intimate partner violence is a serious problem. When you look at the situation of the Dej-Oudom family, it is hard not to see a moral obligation to put better systems in place to help victims of intimate partner violence get protection and safety — including whatever legal remedies are available. There is an entire family dead because of a failure of Nevada courts to act. Even admitting failure after the fact, as in this case in the Review Journal story, feels like the worst kind of feeble lip-service. We should all be outraged that an entire family is dead!
How many more families like the Dej-Oudoms must pay the ultimate price in Nevada?
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