Domestic Violence: The Worst Kept Community Secret

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(From Anita Alvarez, Cook County State’s Attorney)


Contrary to what many believe, domestic violence is not a private issue.  The repercussions of domestic violence are felt not only by the victims but by entire families.  Neighbors hear disturbances.  Friends and co-workers see the bruises or scars.  Teachers and classmates notice changes in personalities from outgoing and fun-loving to shy and timid, or possibly even violent.  This trickledown effect makes domestic violence a community issue and one where, as a community, we need to come together in support of the victims.

 According to the National Institute of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.  And the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44, more common than cancer deaths, car accidents or muggings.

 Since taking office, I have made several changes in the office to make the prosecution of domestic violence cases a priority.  But, the State’s Attorney’s Office cannot do it alone.  We, as a community, need to reach out to victims of domestic violence and let them know they are not alone.  We need to let them know that there is help available to them and that there are individuals who can and will assist them in getting that help, without fear of being judged.

 Many victims, physically and emotionally scarred, may be too ashamed to admit they need help.  There are plenty of resources available, from the Resource Center at Cook County Domestic Violence Court, to the Domestic Violence Helpline (877-863-6338), which will assist a victim in finding the nearest shelter. 

 Friends, neighbors, clergy and other community leaders have the power to guide victims to the proper resources for assistance and to offer support as they report their abuse to authorities.  For more information, contact the Domestic Violence Resource Center at (312) 325-9206.

 Be a good neighbor and friend – reach out and let a victim of domestic violence know they do not have to go through it alone.

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