Making domestic battery an automatic felony could backfire

A night or two in jail could lead to job loss and the main source of income for affected families. Survivors may drop charges if they feel that their abuser may be sent to prison.

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Cletora Kirkman walks past a mural dedicated to domestic violence awareness honoring Myrtis Jackson at 75th Pl and South Ashland Ave, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. | Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Cletora Kirkman walks past a mural dedicated to domestic violence awareness honoring Myrtis Jackson at 75th Pl. and South Ashland Ave, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. Jackson, 96, was stabbed by her grandson earlier that year, authorities said.

Anthony Vazquez, Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

I appreciated former Riverside Police Chief Tom Weitzel’s recent op-ed on domestic violence and the importance of victim support. As a Riverside resident, I can attest to Weitzel’s professionalism and the respect many have for his thoughts and opinions.

I am also familiar with the struggles survivors face since I am a long-time volunteer for Sarah’s Inn, a domestic violence agency in Forest Park. I often take phone calls from survivors who are confused, scared and worried about their futures. We are trained to offer options and to weed through that confusion. The choices are never easy.

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In his op-ed, Weitzel mentioned that many survivors are financially dependent on their abusers. If these abusers are kept a night or two in jail, it could lead to job loss and the main source of income for affected families. The chief’s suggestion that domestic battery should be automatic felonies may backfire. Survivors may drop charges if they feel that their abuser may be sent to prison. The abusers also may not be able to find a job down the road since they will have a record.

Many judges order abusers to enroll in violence interruption classes, which we offer at Sarah’s Inn. They can be effective. Studies show a 50% reduction in recidivism when participants take these classes seriously.

It would also help if survivors can recognize the cycle of violence in their partners before children are conceived. When I taught at Riverside-Brookfield High School, I led a criminal justice unit in which students visited Cook County Jail. Hearing about the family violence many detainees had dealt with made an impression on the teenagers, so it is not an impossible task to teach youth about the consequences for those who witness or perpetrate such acts.

While I didn’t agree with a small part of Weitzel’s op-ed, I thought it was very beneficial. Just talking about this issue is the first step in finding solutions.

Jan Goldberg, Riverside

How to get away with crime

First, change your name to Donald J. Trump. You will not pay taxes for years and get away with it. You will sexually assault women, brag about it, and get away with it. You will lie, cheat and put all the blame on others for the exact things that you are guilty of and get away with it.

You will be investigated by a congressional panel for attempting to overturn the 2020 election, provoking simple-minded followers to violently storm the Capitol.

“Fight like hell,” Trump told his followers. So they did. And yes, The Donald may get away with that too.

Bob Meder, Romeoville

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