Combined efforts focus on date violence

By Hilary Lee

Date violence is no longer a “hidden crime” because of the efforts of the legal system, the police and social groups.

The “domestic battery” law that went into effect in Illinois July 1, 1990, does not recognize dating violence as a form of domestic violence. DeKalb State’s Attorney Mike Coghlan said he uses an “expansive” definition of the law to include dating violence.

Legally, dating violence is not classified as domestic violence because the people involved are not living together. Therefore, the court-appointed services available in cases of domestic violence would not be applied to dating violence offenders or victims.

Those services include an order of protection—a legal document requiring the abuser to stay away from the victim or court-mandated counseling for the abuser or victim.

The new law is part of an effort to “remove discretion from the judge and prosecutor” as well as to “increase the penalty” for offenders, said Coghlan.

The law specifically defines domestic battery as bodily harm and/or “physical conduct of an insulting or provoking nature” committed by a “family or household member.”

In addition, abuse is classified as a Class A misdemeanor with up to a $1000 fine and one year in jail. This is the equivalent of a battery charge.

The effect of this law in cases of dating violence on the NIU campus has not yet been determined.

“It seems as though we have a lot (of cases),” said Sgt. Kathy Guimond, University Police.

Guimond defines dating violence as “physical and psychological coercion,” that occurs between two people who are not living together.

The physical violence can include any type of physical abuse. Psychological abuse is harder to define, but it can refer to manipulation or threats to force the victim to continue to date the abuser, said Guimond.

Dating violence is most often found in situations where the parties are spending a lot of time together. People involved in a dating situation at college tend to spend more time together than in traditional relationships, and this may contribute to an abusive relationship, said Guimond.

Jenine Palvsen, assistant adjudicator for the NIU Judicial Office, said she has not seen many cases but she “knows they are out there.”

Palvsen said the real problem comes when a victim won’t take a stand.

If the victim does process a complaint, the NIU Judicial Office will generate a notice of the charges to the abuser. The offender can then defend himself, settle or have a hearing.

Palvsen said she hopes she can help “foster a healthy relationship” between her clients. Other options can include termination of the relationship or counseling through the university.

Similar free, confidential services are offered by Safe Passage, a shelter for victims of domestic violence, said Director Pam Wiseman. The hotline number for Safe Passage is 756-5228.

Guimond hopes that people will realize “we live in a violent society” and dating violence is not acceptable.