What is domestic violence?
Domestic violence, or intimate partner violence, occurs when one person causes physical or psychological harm to a current or former intimate partner. It includes all acts of violence within the context of family or intimate relationships. Besides being the leading cause of injury to women in the United States (a woman is beaten every 15 seconds), it is an issue of increasing concern because of its negative effect on all family members, especially children.
While accurate information on the extent of domestic violence is difficult to obtain because of under-reporting, some aspects of the problem are known:
What are the signs of domestic violence?
If you believe you may be in an abusive relationship, here are some questions to ask yourself:
There are other signs of domestic violence that observers might see in a relative or friend who is in an abusive relationship. They include:
What are the health effects of domestic violence?
Besides the obvious physical injuries, domestic violence can lead to depression, anxiety, panic attacks, substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder. Abuse also might trigger suicide attempts or psychotic episodes.
How can you leave an abusive partner?
Leaving an abuser can be dangerous. In order to do it as safely as possible, you should plan ahead and take the following precautions:
While making plans to leave, avoid making long-distance phone calls from home of using a cell phone. An abuser could trace long-distance calls to find out where you are going or intercept your cell phone conversations using a scanner. Also, be aware that the abuser may be able to monitor your Internet activities and access your e-mail account.
Where can you turn to for help?
In an emergency situation, call 911 or your local law enforcement agency. If you are not in immediate danger, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-Safe (7233), which provides crisis intervention and referrals to in-state or out-of-state resources, such as women’s shelters or crisis centers.
What is the law on domestic violence in Illinois?
The Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986 focused more government effort on this problem. These efforts were further bolstered by recent Illinois Supreme Court rulings putting more “teeth” into the law by effectively mandating that law enforcement act to protect victims of domestic abuse. According to Illinois law, police officers must take steps to protect a victim of domestic abuse whenever a family or household member has committed any act of abuse.
The Illinois Elder Abuse and Neglect Act became law in 1988 and provided that people who report suspected abuse or cooperate with an investigation are not subject to criminal or civil liability or professional disciplinary action. It further provides that the identity of the reporter shall not be disclosed without the written permission of the reporter or by order of a court. Anonymous reports are accepted.
The following hotlines can help women experiencing violence:
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Illinois Department of Human Services Domestic Violence Helpline
Elder Abuse Hotline
The Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network (RAINN)
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