Domestic violence cases up, but calls to police down, study says
(Heart of Illinois ABC) - New research shows the number of domestic violence calls is up in Illinois this year, building off of the highest data ever seen during the pandemic. But the number of survivors reaching out to police overall is seeing a different trend.
The Network: Advocating Against Domestic Violence is a group of non-profits based in the Chicago area. Their annual report, now on its third year, tracks domestic and sexual violence with their associated service providers statewide. According to the organization, the goal is to ‘address whose experience matters and what works.’ In the study released Monday, findings show calls to police are down 5% in the last year. That’s despite the fact calls to the domestic violence hotline operated by The Network were up 9% from 2021. Research points to the fact survivors want the violence to stop, but fewer are contacting police to make it happen.
“Survivors just felt like their needs weren’t being met,” says Olivia Farrell, Director of Policy, Advocacy, and Research at The Network. “I think especially for some of the places downstate that may have smaller law enforcement agencies, they don’t have the same resources dedicated to gender-based violence.”
According to The Network’s studies, some survivors are quoted saying police accuse them of lying or don’t take them seriously at all in a crisis situation. That’s on top of many departments having often-limited resources and training for dealing with domestic abuse situations.
“Law enforcement’s really not equipped to handle these calls, they don’t have the same expertise as a service provider might,” says Ferrell. “They’re not really trained in trauma-informed techniques.”
But the story is different locally. The Center for Prevention of Abuse in Peoria says their relationship with police is beneficial, pointing to the high number of arrests in related cases on the part of the Peoria County Sheriff’s Office and Peoria Police Department.
“We’ve trained their department on domestic violence and sexual assault response, and also human trafficking, so I can’t tell you we’ve had a bad relationship with them,” says Carol Merna, the Center’s CEO.
With numbers on the rise, they understand that every situation is different.
“It takes a lot of courage to reach out to anybody, much less to law enforcement,” Merna adds.
We contacted several law enforcement agencies across the area for this story. The Peoria Police Department declined our request for comment. The Peoria County Sheriff’s office says bookings are actually down the past three months, and haven’t changed significantly over the past three years. Bloomington Police told us they were unavailable for comment today.
If you or someone you know is a victim of abuse, you can reach out to the Center for Prevention of Abuse at their crisis hotline by dialing (800) 559-SAFE (7233), available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also visit their website by clicking here for more resources, all of which are free.
You can also read about the resources provided by The Network by clicking the link here. You can reach their domestic violence hotline by dialing (877) 863-6338.
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