More than 1,000 Domestic Violence Cases in Winnebago Co. in 2012

ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Domestic violence is a huge problem in the Stateline and the numbers prove it. More than 1,100 cases have gone through Winnebago County's Domestic Violence Court since it was formed a year ago.

It's all love and kisses in Gabby Christie's house these days, but it hasn't always been that way. For two-and-a-half years her now ex-boyfriend showed her anything but love.

"Choking, punching, kicking, throwing, body-slamming," she said.

All that abuse landed Christie in the hospital. It was her family that decided is enough was enough.

"When all the bruises showed up from him choking me and punching me in the face my family wasn't letting me go back," Christie said.

Her ex-boyfriend found himself facing charges in a courtroom dedicated specifically to domestic violence cases. A Department of Justice grant created the court last year. Since then more than 1,100 cases have been assigned to that court.

"We were I think a little overwhelmed at first with the large number of cases," 17th Circuit Court Judge Rosemary Collins, said.

Since then and with the help of that grant the court's hired four employees. In many cases defendants in both criminal and civil court, like divorce court, are now ordered to counseling. That's something never done before in civil court. One of those new court employees now checks to make sure the defendants are following through.

"They can understand a little bit about how their behavior affects everybody in the community and hopefully it will create some empathy for the victims of domestic violence," Judge Collins explained.

Looking toward the future Judge Collins hopes to make orders of protection available 24 hours a day. Christie hopes that will encourage more women in abusive relationships to take her advice.

"Get out, as soon as possible because the longer you wait the harder it is," she said.

The grant that formed the court runs out at the end of this year. Judge Collins hopes to get that extended for another year.

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