The statistics are startling. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the United States, more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. It is also estimated that one out of four women will be a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime.
In an effort to help turn the tide, Governor Pat Quinn recently signed several new laws intended to curb domestic violence in Illinois by heightening penalties for repeat offenders, aiding victims covered by their abusers’ insurance policies, and requiring school districts to adopt procedures regarding teen dating violence.
Domestic Violence Reclassified as a Felony for Repeat Offenders
Currently, many domestic violence cases are considered misdemeanors. House Bill 958, sponsored by State Rep. Emily McAsey (D-Lockport) and State Sen. Pat McGuire (D-Joliet), amends §12-3.2 of the Criminal Code of 2012 (720 ILCS 5/12-3.2) to increase the penalties for domestic violence by classifying the offense as a felony if the defendant has a prior domestic violence conviction. The felony classification is more severe if the defendant has more than one prior conviction, topping out with a sentence of up to 14 years for four or more convictions. According to Rep. McAsey, “Domestic violence impacts more than 100,000 people in Illinois each year … This new law forces repeat domestic abusers to be held accountable by increasing penalties for each violent act.” Sen. McGuire echoed this sentiment, noting that “[t]his law sends domestic abusers a strong message that the more often they do harm, the more time they’ll spend in jail.” The law takes effect Jan. 1. 2014.
Insurance Companies May Communicate With Victims Without Informing Abusers of Current Addresses
House Bill 3300, sponsored by State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit (D-Aurora) and State Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), amends the Illinois Insurance Code by adding Section 355b (215 ILCS 5/355b) to protect victims of domestic violence who are covered by their abusers’ insurance policies. The law allows insurance companies to communicate with the victims without revealing their current addresses to their abusers. It provides that the insurer “shall accommodate a reasonable request” to “receive communications of claim-related information from the company by alternative means or at alternative locations if the person clearly states that disclosure of all or part of the information could endanger the person.” The law takes effect Jan. 1, 2014.
School Boards to Adopt Policies on Dating Violence Between Teenagers
Finally, House Bill 3379, sponsored by State Rep. Silvana Tabares (D-Chicago) and State Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago), adds a new §3.10 to the Critical Health Problems and Comprehensive Health Education Act (105 ILCS 110/3.10), which requires school boards to adopt a policy on teen dating violence. The policy must set up procedures for how school staffers respond when they become aware of teen dating violence. Schools are also now required to educate students about dating violence. The law takes effect immediately.