By: Jazmyne Walker
WCW Staff Writer
The pews at Hope Community Church, 5900 W. Iowa were filled with ladies in purple. Balloons and purple banners decorated the sanctuary as residents and city officials came together for Ald. Deborah Graham’s annual Women Against Domestic Violence.
October represents Domestic Violence Awareness Month and domestic violence prevention advocates provided Chicagoans with useful information and resources on abuse issues. Samantha Fields, Chief of Staff for Gov. Pat Quinn’s office, spoke on his behalf about the new law that was signed this past August making acts of domestic abuse a felony.
“Gov. Quinn strongly believes that the government needs to work to eliminate the barriers, legal and economic, that heed a person’s efforts to escape his/her troublesome environment. In August of this year the governor signed a few measures that would make repeated domestic violence a felony.”
All domestic violence cases are classified as misdemeanors. Starting Jan. 1 2014, House Bill 958 will classify a domestic offense as a felony charge. If a person has a domestic offense prior to the one they are being charged for they could be charged as a felony and receive a more severe sentencing.
“He is also trying to pass a law that will require school boards that will instruct school employees on how to deal with situations where they recognize students being abused.”
“In addition, he signed another [bill] allowing insurance companies to communicate with victims who happen to be covered by their abusers insurance policies because he believes that it is never the victim’s fault.”
Gov. Quinn also signed Bill 3300, sponsored by State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit and State Sen. Daniel Biss, which allows victims to communicate with insurance companies while protecting them from their abusers, in which they are covered by.
Cook County Clerk, Dorothy Brown also spoke on her personal experiences with domestic abuse as a young girl in school. She gave a heartfelt story on a boyfriend who became angry with her after dancing with a friend at their prom. She said that her boyfriend grabbed her tightly by her neck and pulled her outside near bridge and told her that no one would believe he would throw her over the bridge because everyone knew how much he loved her.
Brown said that while she was able to escape such a harmful relationship and continue on with her priorities, she is aware that every victim does not escape.
Sara’s Inn is a domestic violence prevention non-profit organization that educates the community through crisis interventions and violence prevention programs. Linda Conway, Vice President of Fund Development of Sara’s Inn came out to provide information about the organization to anyone who may need it.
“Sarah’s Inn provides comprehensive services for families affected by domestic violence so that they get the support they need to find safety, rebuild their lives, and heal. Even though our office hours aren’t open every hour we have a 24-hour crisis hotline available to anyone. We are here to help because we understand that no one male or female, adult or child deserves any level of abuse towards them”, said Conway.
Pastor Epting of Hope Community Church ended the event in prayer and opened his church to anyone in need. Afterwards, Hope Church members prepared and served a meal to all of the guests. Pamphlets, flyers and additional information on domestic violence abuse, health, and insurance were handed out along with the encouragement of asking any unanswered questions.