Domestic Violence Is Alarmingly Common in Chicago

Arrests for domestic battery are almost as frequent as drug charges. And violence at home leads to violence on the streets.

A 23-year-old prepares her infant daughter for a nap at the Crisis Center for South Suburbia, a 35-bed domestic violence shelter.   PHOTO: DAVID PIERINI/CHICAGO TRIBUNE

WBEZ Pritzker fellow Adriana Cardona-Maguidad, editor of the Back of the Yards-focused The Gate, has an excellent piece today on how domestic violence spills out into the streets, as victims at home take their anger with them into the community:

“My anger is like when you feel the blood is coming up to your head and is not working back now. You get this nervous feeling and your hands ball up,” Juvenal said.

Experts say that anger can lead to violence on the streets if youth, like Juvenal, have ties to local gangs. They’re finding a link between domestic violence and youth involvement in gangs that goes largely unreported.

“Domestic violence is basically at the root of much of the violence that we see here in the streets,” said Father Dave Kelly of Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation. He teaches at-risk youth – even rival gang members – how to resolve their disputes peacefully.

Cardona-Maguidad writes that “there’s no single way to measure how big the problem is in Chicago,” at least in terms of how many children are exposed to and are victims of domestic violence. But we can at least get a sense of how serious the problem is (full disclosure: my wife is a domestic-violence lawyer; when we talk about how our days were, this is what I hear about).

I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: a lot of people in Cook County go to jail on domestic violence charges. According to statistics collected by Loyola’s David Olsen:

  • 12.7 percent of admissions to Cook County Jail in 2011 were for domestic battery, or 9,108 in all.
  • Those admissions accounted for 44.3 percent of all admissions for violent crime.
  • The only category that outranked domestic battery was possession of controlled substances.

Those are arrests, not convictions, but the fact that arrests for domestic battery outrank every offense but drug possession is notable.

Last year, MSU professor Angie Kennedy and her colleagues surveyed “180 female high school students in a poor Chicago community,” and came up with more startling findings:

  • 85 percent witnessed domestic violence.
  • Half reported witnessing an injury to an adult in the home from domestic violence.
  • 72 percent were abused.

In the 1990s, the Chicago Department of Public Health conducted a study in nine clinics:

They also used a self-administered questionnaire designed to assess both frequency and history of abuse, and they asked about abuse at the hands of former as well as current partners; 18.9% of women reported being physically abused within the past year…34.2 percent of the 1,255 women surveyed reported being physically abused during their lifetime.

Last year “domestic battery—bodily harm” was the eighth most common cause for arrest in Chicago (the figures above include other forms of domestic battery and they’re for all of Cook County):

Why does it happen?

In 1992, Kitry Krause wrote a long and fascinating piece for the Reader about men who beat women. A lot of time it’s learned, passed down from parents.

And according to Kennedy’s research, women who are exposed to domestic violence in the home are more likely to become victims later on.

 

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