Domestic violence: How to be an active bystander


Local experts say domestic violence is in every corner of the Rockford area. They add being an active bystander in the community can make a life-saving difference.

Advocates see first hand how widespread domestic violence really is. Rockford’s domestic violence & human trafficking prevention manager Jennifer Cacciapaglia says it’s an every Rockford neighborhood.

“It is 34% of our violent crime,” said Cacciapaglia. “That’s only what’s reported. It is at an epidemic level in this community.”

Experts say neighbors and friends can help if they see or hear something.

Domestic violence red flags to look out for:

  • Controls who their partner talks to
  • Where the person goes
  • Physically hits them or threatens to
  • Name calling
  • Stalks their partner
  • Has jealous behaviors.

“The abuser often controls almost every aspect of their life,” said said 17th Circuit Court Judge Rosemary Collins. “If you see that happening, that should raise some concerns.”

Cacciapaglia says neighbors shouldn’t be afraid to help a survivor — but add being supportive is critical.

“Do not judge them, said Cacciapaglia. “Don’t be aggressive with them, don’t mimic the behavior of the abuser and make demands of them that they have to leave.”

Collins is the presiding judge of the domestic violence division in the 17th Judicial Circuit Court. She says its important to call the police if you suspect someone is in danger.

“It’s always better to call the police if you’re in doubt,” said Collins. “[It’s better to call the police if] you’re concerned about somebody’s safety than to be talking about it afterwards and wish you had called the police.”

Cacciapaglia agrees, she says taking action could save someone’s life.

“Reach out. If you don’t know what to do, if you suspect something is happening and you’re not entirely sure how to handle it.. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Call that number and ask for their advice.”

CALL National Domestic Violence Hotline 24/7/365:
1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

Remedies Renewing Lives

Winnebago County Sheriff’s Police Domestic Violence Unit

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