Victims of domestic violence surround us. Many victims from affluent families serve as pillars of our community, attend professional and charitable events with us, volunteer at our children’s schools, or are simply neighbors. Outwardly, they appear to enjoy the luxuries and quality of life that the Chicago area provides, but their private lives are drastically different from their public persona.
While the true number of victims may never be known because the crime often goes unreported, research confirms that domestic violence in affluent families is a grave and epidemic issue. “Elevated socioeconomic status can make domestic violence more difficult to report,” acknowledges Bradley Bloom, Chief of Police for the Hinsdale Police Department. “For many victims they don’t want to come forward because it serves as affirmation of the demise of their marriage,” added Gary J. Schira, Chief of Police for the City of Batavia. Both chiefs agree the stigma alone is a major deterrent to reporting the abuse.
For those victims who are ready to take the first step in asking for help, there are many protections that today’s laws now offer. If there is an immediate threat to one’s health or welfare, contacting the police should always be the first call a victim makes. For those victims who are considering divorce, but where there is no immediate threat, a family law attorney should be the resource relied upon. One of the first steps an attorney can help with as part of an exit strategy is to secure a civil order of protection. Such orders offer many levels of security for a victim, such as preventing the abuser from having any contact with the victim and the children, removing the abuser from the residence, or preventing the abuser from coming to the victim’s place of employment or the children’s schools.
Once the order of protection is in place, it is critically important that the protected party call the police if the order of protection is violated and the victim feels his or her (or the children’s) safety is in jeopardy. At a minimum, the victim should contact his or her attorney. First and foremost, domestic violence presents the issue of physical safety. Second, reporting violations is a matter of taking back control. By reporting violations of the order of protection, the victim stops the cycle of abuse. Further, if a violation is reported, the abuser will be arrested and while in custody can do no harm. If the abuser is released from custody, evolving tools such as GPS-like devices have been effective in tracking violators and keeping victims safer.
In all, great strides have been made since the days when the abuser was told to simply take a walk around the block and cool off. By collaborating with the police, attorneys, and other groups offering valuable services to victims of domestic violence, we can provide the necessary support to victims of abuse and bring an end to domestic violence in financially upscale families.