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In brief : woman fired for being victim of domestic violence

A San Diego teacher has been fired after a domestic dispute involving her ex-husband occurred at the school she was employed at.

Carie Charlesworth, formerly a primary school teacher, was fired for being a ‘liability’ to the safety of students and fellow staff at Holy Trinity School in El Cajon.

Charlesworth’s ex-husband has a history of domestic violence, and despite having a restraining order in place, he had harassed Charlesworth and her children in the weekend prior to the school incident.

Charlesworth informed the principal of Holy Trinity of the weekend’s events to warn him of any disruption at school, and when her ex-husband arrived at the school the following Monday, the school went into lockdown.

Immediately after the incident, Charlesworth was put on ‘indefinite’ leave, before being formally fired three months later with a letter citing ‘the interest of the safety of the students, faculty and parents at Holy Trinity School’.

Clearly, the school was less concerned about Charlesworth’s own safety, as she is not only no longer employed by Holy Trinity, but is banned from employment at any other school under the same diocese.

Effectively, her chances of finding another teaching job anywhere near her home have been completely ruined – destroying her livelihood and making her task of raising her children who already suffer from an unstable environment that much harder.

Charlesworth’s case is sadly not unique – the stigma attached to domestic violence means that victims fear both social and professional repercussions of reporting their cases. And the legal system (both in America and here in Australia) has failed to adequately ensure safety for victims.

A VicHealth study found that domestic violence is a leading cause of death, disability and illness for women from the age of 15 onwards – a frightening statistic, made all the more potent when considering how often reported cases fail to be addressed in a way that ceases the violence.

Consider the case of  Victorian woman Sargun Ragi, who was kept a captive in her home by her abusive husband for months. After reporting the domestic violence and being placed under a protection order, Ragi was stabbed and then burned to death by her husband – despite having reported three breaches by him to police in the time leading up to her murder.

The American and Australian legal systems differ vastly, but are similar in that they neither truly address the issue of domestic violence in a way that ensures the safety of victims.

The fact that Charlesworth was victimised further by her employers after already suffering from an ineffective legal system  that failed to protect her and her children from ongoing abuse is horrifying and in many ways beyond belief.

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