GURNEE – At Computer Systems Institute (CSI) in Gurnee, staff is committed to not only educating students in the classroom, but delivering life lessons as well.
With October recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, CSI recently invited representatives from the Gurnee Police Department, as well as the Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center in Gurnee, to speak with its students.
“We’re really lucky because we are a small campus and I have the unique opportunity to get to know these students,” said Roxanne Peplow, director of student services at CSI.
It’s that ability to get to know students that made Peplow aware that students, both male and female, are dealing with domestic violence situations in their life. She said some students may not even be aware that a situation they are in is actually a domestic violence situation.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 20 people per minute in the U.S. are physically abused by an intimate partner, on average.
During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men. Women between the ages of 18 and 24 are most commonly abused by an intimate partner.
“It’s really beneficial for them to hear these things that are being done to them is abuse,” Peplow said. "If we can get to one person and prevent one domestic violence case, we’re doing something right.”
Peplow said the staff of CSI also build a rapport and relationship with students. To that end, Peplow said it makes it easier for students to come forward if they need help.
If a student is in a domestic violence situation, Peplow said the first thing they need to do is tell someone and then contact the police. She added that if a student suspects someone may be in a domestic violence situation, they should say something to that person. Even if the student denies there is a problem, help can still be offered by the school. CSI has clinical psychology students from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology that are able to provide services to students on campus.
Domestic violence situations can also include sexual abuse situations. According to Adam Robinson, executive director of the Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center, many of the survivors they work with have been abused by someone in the home. He said working with other agencies on presentations like the one at CSI is a great way to reach out to people who may need help.
“We’re aligned,” he said. “We all want these crimes to stop.”
Robinson said because survivors are in traumatic situations where power and control is taken from them, the Zacharias Center offers services that will help people reclaim that empowerment and sense of control that has been lost. The center works to create as many avenues to its services and reduce as many barriers to survivors as possible. It often works with agencies in the community, particularly those that are likely to discover abuse.
“Anytime we can get into the public eye, it helps to reduce barriers,” Robinson said.
Robinson said the center is very client-focused and staff doesn’t pretend to have all the answers or know what everybody needs. They don’t have a certain number of steps for healing. Each client gets the assistance they need, how they need it.
Gurnee Police Department Deputy Chief William Meyer said the police department participates in such presentations whenever they are requested in the community.
“The more information we can get out there, the better,” Meyers said.
If called to a domestic violence situation, there are certain things the police are mandated to do. For example, if there is probable cause, the department must make an arrest, whether the victim agrees to press charges or not.
“If a crime has been committed, the police department is required to make an arrest,” Meyer said, adding that under Illinois law, the person arrested cannot bond out before seeing a judge. The person also can’t go back to the residence where the incident took place for 72 hours.
The police department also provides resources to those in need, such as information on shelters and the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Understanding these are often scary situations for victims, a member of the police department will even drive a victim to the State’s Attorney’s Office and assist them in obtaining an order of protection, as well as help serve the warrant. If a victim chooses to leave a situation, a police officer will accompany them so they can get their belongings without fear and provide transportation to a safe place.