ROCKFORD, Ill (WIFR) -- Rockford receives roughly 5,000 calls for domestic violence incidents each year. Experts say that crime is underreported.
Local lawyers, politicians and those creating the Family Peace Center are trying to mitigate the stress of the legal process for domestic abuse survivors.
"Domestic violence is not unique to any race, socioeconomic class, it is not caused by drug addiction, unemployment or any other such factors," says Jennifer Cacciapaglia, the manager for the Mayor's Office on Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking. "Domestic violence is a choice."
That choice leads to our area's most violent crimes. "Thirty eight percent of our overall violent crime rate. We have to do something differently because the way we have policed it, the way we try to address it for decades, the way we have tried to prevent it for decades is just not working," says Cacciapaglia.
Leaders believe the reason for that is the legal process and lack of funding.
"Survivors have to deal with not only the legal system, they also have to deal with the DCFS system because their kids are usually involved, they have to deal with having to come back to the court over and over again, but they also have to deal with the family aspect." says Lawyer David Vella, who is also running for a seat in the Illinois House of Representatives. "This is not just a robbery, this is not just a drug deal this is a family-wide and emotional issue."
He says there are three methods he would utilize to lessen the issue. "I would outreach as much as we can, so if somebody calls the police we follow- up not once, not twice but we keep following up," he tells 23 News. "Then we give them access to mental health services or any kind of services they need. And then really what we have to do is educate everybody to this. So if we do that, I think we will start to see a change."
The Family Peace Center is set to open phase one in July.