The domestic violence homicide rate for women is on the rise. After the passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, the domestic violence homicide rate dropped dramatically for men and slightly for women. However that trend appears to be reversing.

According to a report released by the United Nations, 87,000 women were killed around the world in 2017. 58% of them were killed by their partner or a relative. This same report indicated that 82% of homicide victims targeted by their partners were women.

Reports on domestic homicide in the United States also appear to be increasing. A report on CBS news said that homicide against women rose 21% in 2016, the highest level since 2007. Men are by far more likely to be victims of homicide but also account for 9 out of 10 aggressors in homicide.

A big problem remains – there is still significant disbelief, especially in our courts, when women report domestic violence. In the spring of 2019, ICADV staff held five meetings with advocates from ICADV member agencies to get a sense of what challenges and barriers still exist for the survivors coming to their agencies for help. These advocates represent every area of Illinois and work with survivors from all 102 counties.

The issues they reported appear to be throughout the state of Illinois. The challenges to using the Illinois Domestic Violence Act for protection occur in both civil and criminal court.

There are 19 separate remedies available to a petitioner for an order of protection. Each was created to be part of a safety plan for survivors that can be utilized depending on individual circumstances and needs. Five of the remedies are directly related to immediate safety concerns. Others have to do with temporary decisions about children in common, financial remediation or other issues that a petitioner believes would be needed for safety planning.

Some courts do not allow for all of the remedies due to the belief that the decisions should be handled by a different court. For example, in some areas there are courts designated specifically to hear petitions for orders of protection. When a petitioner seeks temporary support or temporary custody, the court mistakenly believes this should only be considered in family court. The issue might be the misunderstanding that orders of protection were created as TEMPORARY measures meant to ensure immediate safety until longer terms resolutions can be sought.

Another big problem is many people do not fully understanding the tenacity and determination of abusers, nor the full range of tactics that they use. Most “domestic violence” isn’t violence but other types of manipulation, coercion and control meant to keep the non-abusive partner confused and on edge.

The tactics utilized by any particular abuser are practiced and honed over time based on what gets the most immediate results. Actual physical violence is often used simply to remind the recipient of who is in charge.

ICADV’s mission is to create a statewide community to exposing the root causes of domestic abuse and to ensure safety for families by supporting the voices of all survivors. This means our work to educate the public, the professionals and those who are both experiencing and committing domestic violence continues. We have much work to do.