Domestic violence victims can find help they want it
By Michelle Linn-Gust For The Sun January 28, 2013 2:44PM
Naperville Sun columnist Michelle Linn-Gust
How to help
Visit Family Shelter Services’ website at www.familyshelterservice.org or call the domestic violence hotline at 630-469-5650.
Learn more about the Safe Pets Program at the Naperville Area Animal Humane Society at www.napervilleareahumanesociety.org and click on community programs, then Safe Pets Program.
Updated: March 1, 2013 7:37PM
In 25 years with the Naperville Police Department, police social worker Mike Hoffman has talked to many victims of domestic violence. Part of the protocol after any domestic violence case is that Hoffman must follow up with the victim, ask how she is doing and if she needs counseling or any other services for a referral.
But he knows not every victim, who compromise 95 percent of cases, will seek help.
“Some women put the pedal to the metal, and others say they just want to know their options,” Hoffman said. “You have to respect that. It would be such an easy job if we could tell people what to do (and they do it).”
The reality is that every situation is different, although for many women hearing what their options are empower them to seek safety.
“They say, ‘I never thought I’d be in a situation like this. I’m educated and talented,’” he said. “They have been robbed of the ability to think for themselves. I try to instill into people thinking for themselves.”
Karen Kuchar, the executive director of Family Shelter Services serving DuPage County, knows this well. The organization is based at the county courthouse and offers comprehensive services for victims of domestic violence. These services include a hotline; shelter for women and children; support and education; and support groups. The goal is to get everyone back on track once they have reached a safe environment.
But she, too, realizes they won’t hear back from every woman who contacts them. Like an addiction, the victim will reach out several times before leaving.
“At the third or fourth time, we have done all we could, and we know she’ll be ready when she’s ready,” Kuchar said.
Family Shelter Services is supposed to receive a call associated with every police report in DuPage County, although Kuchar realizes this won’t always happen. Still, in 2012, they received 5,804 calls and 680 of those came from Naperville (the largest town in the county).
“There are different obstacles,” Kuchar said of women who call from towns like Naperville where the economics are stronger than other places.
If they know the man’s name will appear in the newspaper police report, they won’t call and might go to a private therapist although that person might not have the same kind of training and support needed for domestic violence.
Another deterrent for women from seeking help is if there is a pet in the household. The Naperville Area Animal Humane Society started the Safe Pets Program in 1999, which runs in conjunction with Family Shelter Services.
“Pets are used as a control mechanism,” said Angie Wood, the executive director of the Naperville Area Humane Society. “The victim delays seeking help because of the fear of what will happen to the pet since they can’t take the pet into the shelter with them.”
The organization will take care of the pet for several weeks free of charge. It’s not meant as a long-term solution but instead as a way to help the person seek immediate safety and then begin to put the pieces together by reaching out to families and friends for a place for the pet to stay.
The decision, though, rests with the woman as Hoffman said she will struggle with uprooting her family and how much there is to lose when the kids have activities the next day.
“They own a home together; they have three kids together; they have a life together,” Hoffman said of the difficulty of walking away.
“With a lot of wealth, there is a lot to give up,” Kuchar said. “It may never get to physical abuse if other power and tactics are working like financial and emotional control.”
Still, there is only so much police and service programs can do before the woman must figure out what’s next.
“We’re not here to judge. She may not ever be ready to leave,” Kuchar said.