October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and members of the Illinois Judges Association are working to make sure victims find a way out of violent situations.
Three women are killed every day as the result of domestic violence, according to the National Resource Center on Domestic violence. Family Violence Councils in Illinois are working to stop that cycle of abuse.
Every circuit court in the state of Illinois has it’s own Family Violence Council, made up of hundreds of volunteers from all walks of life who work to coordinate services for victims of domestic violence.
Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder has volunteered with Madison County’s Family Violence Council since it was created in 1996.
She said she saw a need in her community and stepped up.
“Before I was a judge I was a family law attorney,” Crowder said. “I had clients, some who were the perpetrators and some who were the victims, so I became familiar with the cycle of domestic violence. I was involved in getting this started because I recognized there’s a need for a community response to domestic violence.”
Each council is made up of volunteers from all walks of life, including judicial, religious, medical, law enforcement and education.
“There are retired teachers that go into junior colleges and high schools and talk to students about dating violence,” Crowder said. “We train people in beauty salons and dental schools to recognize violence in their customers and patients.”
Family Violence Councils also work to train medical professionals and police officers to recognize signs of abuse.
Crowder points out that domestic violence is not only abuse of significant others. Family Violence Councils also work to protect against child abuse and elder abuse.
Judges in the state of Illinois are available 24-hours a day, seven days a week to hear petitions for emergency orders of protection so victims can seek protection from abuse, according to the Illinois Judges Association.
Crowder says one of her most memorable success stories from her nearly 20 years with the Family Violence Council has to do with an abuser who went through court-required treatment.
“He came and spoke to about a hundred people about the crimes he had been charged with, the abuse he had perpetrated and how being required to go through the treatment opened up his eyes to other ways of dealing with tense family situations,” Crowder said. “Now he goes around explaining to people how to get help.”
Family Violence Centers in Madison and St. Clair counties provides education to community groups free of charge, develops violence prevention procedures and protocols and keeps a library of resource material for programs.
“Every day when you pick up the newspaper, you see where a child has been hurt or where a husband or wife have hurt the other. It’s a common problem,” Crowder said. “What I wish is that people would know there is help out there. They don’t have to be endangered or injured.”