Domestic violence surge continued in 2021, new report shows

The number of orders of protection jumped 55% statewide; domestic violence-related shootings and homicides increased 64% in Chicago.

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Chicago Police outside an apartment building where a Chicago Police officer was shot while responding to a report of a “domestic disturbance” in the 1300 block of West Taylor Street on July 1. Calls to domestic violence hotlines have surged, though calls to police and arrests have dropped, according to a report by The Network, a domestic violence advocacy organization.

Chicago Police outside an apartment building where a Chicago Police officer was shot while responding to a report of a “domestic disturbance” in the 1300 block of West Taylor Street on July 1. Calls to domestic violence hotlines have surged, though calls to police and arrests have dropped, according to a report by The Network, a domestic violence advocacy organization.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file photo

Domestic violence continued to surge in Chicago and across Illinois in 2021, while pandemic-based isolation and economic uncertainty made it harder for victims to get help, a new report released Monday states.

A statewide domestic violence hotline received nearly 30,000 calls in 2021, up 5%, and the number of murders and shootings involving domestic relations in Chicago increased nearly two-thirds from 2020, according to the “Measuring Safety: Gender-based Violence in Illinois” by The Network, a Chicago-based advocacy organization.

Since 2019, the number of shootings and homicides linked to domestic violence by Chicago Police has more than doubled, a figure cited by Mayor Lori Lightfoot following the shooting of a CPD officer who was responding to a domestic incident.

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“The shootings and homicides are statistics that we’re going to get that are recorded by police, but those are probably an undercount, because police don’t always identify them as domestic violence,” said Olivia Farrell, director of policy, research and advocacy for The Network.

“We know that most of the victims in those incidents have never reached out for assistance in any capacity (before they were killed), so there are many incidents where the violence is not as extreme that are going unreported.”

Between 2019 and 2021, calls to the domestic violence hotline from DuPage County increased 53% and Will County’s calls more than doubled, the report states. Domestic violence organizations were able to serve about 49,000 survivors in 2021, a slight uptick from 2020. The increase followed a steep decline from 2019 when the pandemic forced service providers to adapt to working with clients online and with limited access to the courts, Farrell said.

And while victims’ outreach to domestic violence organizations has increased, the number of reported calls to Chicago Police have declined, and the number of cases referred to prosecutors for screening had dropped, Farrell said. Victims interviewed by study authors reported.

Domestic violence incidents are the most-frequently cited reason for the State Police to revoke someone’s firearm owner identification card, a permit required to legally own a gun in Illinois. The study notes that while the ISP revoked more than 11,000 FOID cards in 2021, only about 4,200 of those cases indicated that the gun owner surrendered their weapons to authorities.

Despite the increase in calls to domestic violence hotlines from Chicago residents, the number of cases reported to police fell by 5% in 2021, to around 151,000 reported incidents. The decline likely doesn’t represent a downturn in abuse, given the surge in domestic-related shootings, Farrell said, but probably results from a sense of futility by victims. Victims interviewed by study authors reported feeling ignored by Chicago Police, and CPD made arrests in only about 5% of domestic violence calls, a decline of 15% from 2020 and more than a third from 2020.

One positive finding of the report was a marked increase in funding for domestic violence services, which included $35 million allotted by Chicago to address gender-based violence and human trafficking, and $71 million in state funding for domestic violence services.

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