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Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association celebrates Women’s History Month at Tenement Museum

March 24, 2016 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
From left: Miriam Gentile, Hon. Barbara I. Panepinto, Hon. Joanne Quinones and Hon. Jane Tully. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese

To celebrate Women’s History Month, the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association (BWBA) and the Brooklyn Brandeis Society hosted a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) seminar with Hon. John Leventhal on Wednesday at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum before touring the institution.

During his lecture, Justice Leventhal, who has a book due out in June titled “My Partner, My Enemy: An Unflinching View of Domestic Violence and New Ways to Protect Victims,” spoke about the evolution in the law with respect to women and domestic violence. After the lecture, the group split up for tours that focused on the stories of courageous immigrant women from the 19th and 20th centuries who lived in the Lower East Side.

“He’s an expert and a trailblazer in the field,” President-Elect of the BWBA Sara Gozo said of Leventhal.

“Education is important,” Gozo continued. “All of that history that he gave us is powerful information. This group has a responsibility to try and change things, to make things better. And what better place to start [than] by learning background history of something to see how we can be effective? We’ve already asked if we can come back for a part two to this, and I think the focus is how we can work to make things better.”

Leventhal began his lecture by talking about the tricky history of spousal relationships and how the laws have changed over the years. He even discussed laws that he had a hand in changing.

“The law governing spousal relationships has been unequal historically,” Leventhal said. “Under the common law, a husband could not be convicted of beating his wife. The man was the master of the house and the wife was unable to own her own property or enter into contracts without the husband’s permission.”

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The judge also offered suggestions regarding what could be done to further decrease the instance of domestic violence, such as having all cops carry cameras to better and more efficiently document evidence. He also suggested ideas on how to change the bail laws so that judges could weigh a victim’s safety when determining bail amount rather than being forced to rely on flight risk as the main factor.

Leventhal also cautioned that many women still stay in bad relationships because they simply don’t have the financial means to leave them.

“Access to resources and services [is] necessary so victims and children can go forward with their lives,” Leventhal said. “This involves not only ensuring their physical safety, but also includes working on numerous other problems. Job and housing assistance provide the economic means necessary to help victims leave an abusive relationship.”

BWBA Vice President Michele Mirman helped put the sold-out event together. Mirman is a trustee at the Tenement Museum.

The BWBA will host more events later this month, including Lunch with a Judge featuring Hon. Ingrid Joseph on Monday, March 28 at 1 p.m. at the Kings County Supreme Court. The BWBA will also take part in a screening of the movie “Suffragette” at St. Francis College on Thursday, March 31 at 5:30 p.m. Go to www.brooklynwomensbar.org for more details on these and other events.

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