The statistics are extremely troubling, and here are only a few. Nationally, every 9 seconds a woman in the United States is beaten, and it is estimated that 1 in every 4 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. On average, more than three women and one man are murdered by their intimate partners every day in the United States, and one in five teens in a serious relationship reports having been hit, pushed or slapped by a partner.
Locally, the Chicago Police Department annually responds to more than 200,000 domestic-related calls, which averages to more than 500 calls each day. On any given day, in excess of 12,000 active orders of protection exist in Cook County.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which provides an opportunity for our community to address this serious issue and work on ways to put an end to this scourge. The problem of domestic violence has taken on heightened visibility this year due to the spotlighting of recent incidents involving NFL players such as Ray Rice, who was caught on video abusing his now-wife.
Those who are victims of domestic violence in Illinois may seek legal protection and remedies under the Illinois Domestic Violence Act (IDVA). The IDVA itself recognizes domestic violence “as a serious crime against the individual and society which produces family disharmony in thousands of Illinois families, promotes a pattern of escalating violence which frequently culminates in intra-family homicide, and creates an emotional atmosphere that is not conducive to healthy childhood development.” The Act further defines its own purpose as “[s]upport[ing] the efforts of victims of domestic violence to avoid further abuse by promptly entering and diligently enforcing court orders which prohibit abuse and, when necessary, reduce the abuser’s access to the victim and address any related issues of child custody and economic support, so that victims are not trapped in abusive situations by fear of retaliation, loss of a child, financial dependence, or loss of accessible housing or services.”
To accomplish these stated goals, the IDVA recognizes that “abuse” can take many forms, including:
Violation by the abuser of any of the remedies specified in the order of protection may result in his being held in contempt of court or charged with the commission of a crime.
How long the remedies of the order of protection last depends upon the type of order which was entered. If the order was issued on an emergency basis – meaning without any notice to the alleged abuser – it can last between 14 and 21 days, with extensions permitted for good cause. In contrast, if an interim order is entered where the alleged abuser was notified of the court hearing but has not necessarily been served with all of the court documents, that order is valid for 30 days, again with extensions permitted. Finally, if the order is “plenary” (meaning final) it can last up to two years, with extensions again permitted for good cause shown.
There is no question that the impact of domestic violence extends far beyond the victim and family members; it reaches into the workplace, social settings and the community at large. The heightened awareness recently afforded this issue has not only provided important opportunities to speak out against domestic violence, but has also encouraged many victims to break their silence and seek legal protection from their abusers. In Illinois, the IDVA provides the framework to obtain this important and often lifesaving relief.