The numbers are staggering. One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. The Illinois State Police reported 115,000 domestic crimes in 2009, the vast of majority of which were violent crimes and 40 of which were murders. Last year Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence provided services to over 44,000 adults and over 8,700 children in the form of shelter, counseling and advocacy. While the number of crimes is increasing, the funds available to assist survivors are shrinking.
These are not just numbers. These crimes are being perpetrated against our mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, neighbors and coworkers. What can you do to help? Report crimes of domestic violence to the police. Listen to those around you that may be victims of domestic abuse. Tell victims that you are ready to help when they are ready to seek help. Provide victims with the telephone number for ADV & SAS, which can provide free, confidential services.
As part of a groundbreaking study, the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence surveyed survivors about the barriers they face when trying to leave an abusive relationship. Overwhelmingly, these survivors reported they need: A safe place to live; resources to become more economically self-sufficient; a justice system that holds batterers accountable and keeps victims safe; and access to support services. Many stay in abusive relationships due to fear — fear of the violent consequences of leaving and facing insurmountable challenges in trying to support herself and her children; fear of her children or herself being killed by her batterer; fear of living on the street; fear of not being able to get medical care for herself and her children; fear of the intimidating process of seeking legal protections within her rights, only to be blamed by the justice system for the crimes committed against her.
As a community, we must band together and publicly state that enough is enough. We need to create an action plan to meet the needs of these survivors so they can escape abusive relationships. Please join the Zonta Clubs of Ottawa, LaSalle-Peru and Streator at Washington Park in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 25 at 6:30 p.m. to learn more about the problem of domestic violence in our community. We will have several guest speakers, including Dr. Eileen Couture, OSF St. Elizabeth; Sue Doman, sister of Kathleen Savio; and Cassandra Cales, sister of Stacy Peterson.
Domestic violence affects our entire community. As a community, we need to work together to change attitudes and perceptions about domestic violence.
Susan Bursztynsky, president of the Zonta Club of Ottawa