Winnebago County reports a dangerous and sometimes deadly trend domestic violence is on the rise. There is a big jump in the number of cases for 2012. Almost a year ago, Winnebago County's 17th Judicial Circuit started a Domestic Violence Court to deal specifically with cases that involve violence in the home. So far the workload's getting worse.
"The incidents of domestic violence are becoming more physically dangerous with more notable injuries, more severe injuries as a result of domestic violence," says Karen Gill, Remedies, vice president of operations.
In Winnebago County, not including Rockford, there were 246 on-scene arrests for a person involved in a domestic incident. Those numbers do not count people later arrested on warrants. That number increased to 316 in 2012. A nearly 30 percent jump. For Rockford, in the last six months the city saw more than 600 on-scene arrests.
Remedies, which operates the county's only domestic violence shelter says there are many more people who never report they are being hurt by their partner. But Judge Rosemary Collins, the presiding head of the Domestic Violence Court, believes the bad economy is actually forcing people to get help.
"We are seeing an increase in domestic violence related cases in zip codes where we had not seen much before. Probably not because there wasn't violence there, but people there had the mechanisms to escape from it without involving the police. You know some people could go to the hotel instead of going to the shelter. But if they lose their financial stability than they can't go to a hotel," says Judge Collins.
She says one of the most important things is to move an abuser through the court system as fast a possible so they do not have time to go back to the victim and try to get the changes dropped.
"We have coordinated with the probation department and with other services in the community so we can try to get people into counseling right away and that we can hold them accountable," says Judge Collins.
She adds there is also a group made up of probation officers, prosecutors and organizations like Remedies that looks for repeat offenders and tries to find ways to stop continued violence.
If you or someone you know needs help, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) to be connected to services in your area. You can also call Remedies directly at 815-962-6102 for domestic violence help.
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