The U.S. Department of Justice has awarded $15.9 million to 19 community agencies in Illinois under the Violence Against Women Act, which is intended to “prevent, combat, and investigate sexual assault and violence against women and support critical victims’ services,” such as housing assistance and counseling. In Illinois and nationwide, law enforcement officials and prosecutors have increased efforts to investigate allegations of domestic violence and bring alleged perpetrators to justice, especially now during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, when domestic violence rates appear to be on the rise.
If you have been arrested or charged with a domestic violence crime in Illinois, you need a reputable domestic violence lawyer on your side who can protect your legal rights and ensure that your side of the story is told. To learn more about your options when facing domestic violence charges in Illinois, contact an experienced Illinois domestic violence lawyer today.
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The Violence Against Women Act
Congress adopted the federal Violence Against Women Act in 1994, providing funding for the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes like domestic violence and sexual assault and improving the federal, state and local responses to such crimes, and the law has been renewed several times since. Since it was created more than 25 years ago, the Act has provided more than $7 billion in federal grants to programs that prevent domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.
Most recently, in 2019, the Violence Against Women Act was reauthorized with new provisions aimed at preventing convicted domestic violence offenders and those subject to a restraining order from buying or owning firearms. For some people, home is not the safe place that many others find it to be, says Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, especially during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Durbin calls the Violence Against Women Act a “lifeline for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.”
Domestic Violence Reports in Illinois
The conditions created by the COVID-19 crisis have sparked an increase in domestic violence reports nationwide. Increased tensions caused by job loss, isolation, restrictions on movement and fears about the spread of the virus have made domestic violence in some households more frequent and more severe. Conflicts that might otherwise end amiably are more likely to spiral out of control during the coronavirus pandemic, with school closures, unemployment and economic uncertainty adding to already elevated stress levels at home.
The Chicago Police Department reported a 12% increase in domestic violence-related calls from the beginning of the year through mid-April, a trend that was echoed in cities across the country. “Folks in these isolated situations, and these additional stressors really just lead to increased incidents of domestic violence,” said Olivia Farrell, Advocacy and Policy Manager with The Network: Advocating Against Domestic Violence, which runs Illinois’ domestic violence hotline in partnership with Chicago’s Department of Family and Support Services.
Even after many of the COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in Illinois, domestic violence calls continued to flood the hotlines. According to Farrell, between the time Illinois’ stay-at-home order was lifted in May through the end of July, domestic violence-related calls were up 32% from the previous year.
Now, as schools across Illinois begin to reopen for the 2020-2021 school year, some districts are bringing students back into the classroom, while others have chosen to continue remote learning, which creates yet another challenge for parents who don’t have the option of working from home. These unprecedented issues stemming from the COVID-19 crisis can exacerbate matters in households where violence has been a problem or possibly even provoke violence in households where it didn’t exist before.
Facing Illinois Domestic Violence Charges
Domestic violence is a crime in Illinois and any person who hits, kicks, chokes, harasses or threatens another family or household member is in danger of facing criminal charges for domestic violence. The Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986 gives law enforcement officers in Illinois the right to “make an arrest without warrant if the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed or is committing any crime,” including domestic violence or violation of a domestic violence order of protection.
That means, if the police respond to a domestic violence call at your home, they will most likely make an arrest, even if they did not witness the alleged crime. Once you have been arrested for a domestic violence crime, you will want to make sure your rights are thoroughly protected, which is why we recommend hiring an experienced Illinois domestic violence defense attorney to represent you.
The consequences of a domestic violence charge can be severe, possibly including more than a decade in prison and thousands of dollars in fines, depending on the circumstances of the criminal charge. In the state of Illinois, domestic violence crimes are usually charged as either:
- Domestic battery, which involves causing bodily harm to or making physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with a family or household member, or
- Aggravated domestic battery, which involves the act of committing a domestic battery and, in doing so, knowingly causing great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement to or strangling a family or household member.
Strengthening Efforts to Fight Domestic Violence in Illinois
In providing $15.9 million in funding to domestic violence agencies statewide in Illinois, like the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Circuit Court of Cook County’s Justice for Families Program, and the city of Chicago’s Criminal Justice Responses to Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking Program, the Justice Department seeks to reinforce efforts to prevent, combat and investigate acts of domestic violence across the state. The rise in reports of domestic violence during COVID-19 has been called a “pandemic within a pandemic,” and as the coronavirus crisis drags on, domestic violence remains a significant concern nationwide.
Even in areas where the number of domestic violence calls dropped following the implementation of stay-at-home orders and other measures intended to prevent widespread infection, the decline has been attributed to reduced access to services and barriers to reporting abuse due to COVID-19.
In the United States, one in four women and one in 10 men experience intimate partner violence, which often takes the form of physical abuse, though the abuse can also be emotional, psychological or sexual. In Illinois, approximately 42% of women and 26% of men will be harmed by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
Although many states define domestic violence narrowly as violence between intimate partners, the state of Illinois defines domestic violence more broadly as any abusive relationship between members of a family or household.
The Illinois Domestic Violence Act describes “family or household members” as spouses, former spouses, parents, children, stepchildren and other people related by blood or marriage (present or prior), people who currently live or previously lived together, people who have a child together or share a blood relationship through a child, people who currently have or previously had a dating relationship, people with disabilities and their personal assistants, and caregivers who have a responsibility for a high-risk adult.
A Pattern of Abuse
Domestic violence is more than a single attack or assault on another person. Rather, it is a “pattern” of abuse committed by one person against another, for the purpose of gaining or maintaining power or control over that person. This includes any behaviors intended to intimidate, frighten, manipulate, isolate, terrorize, humiliate or injure another person, and such behaviors tend to escalate in frequency and/or severity over time.
This is of particular concern during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, when alleged victims may find themselves isolated in their homes with their alleged abusers, with limited access to crisis intervention and support services. Addressing the risk of the coronavirus crisis contributing to an increase in domestic violence is of paramount importance, especially with the looming prospect of a second wave of COVID-19 infections, which is why Illinois and other states are focused on increasing efforts to thoroughly investigate allegations of domestic violence and hold alleged offenders accountable.
Fighting Illinois Domestic Violence Charges
Domestic violence charges are taken extremely seriously in Illinois, and the current COVID-19 crisis has succeeded in shining a spotlight on the risk of domestic abuse survivors facing more frequent or escalating violence at the hands of family or household members, which could result in more arrests. If you have been arrested for domestic violence in Illinois, it is in your best interest to consult an experienced domestic violence lawyer as quickly as possible to guarantee that you put forth the best possible defense in your case.
A conviction for domestic violence can have serious repercussions affecting your civil liberties, your career and your personal life, so don’t wait to speak to an attorney about fighting the charges. There are a number of defenses available in domestic violence cases and a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer with proven experience handling domestic violence cases in Illinois can give you the best chance at getting the charges reduced or even dismissed. With the right defense attorney on your side, you can ensure that you get the best possible outcome in your case.