Domestic violence: What Kane County is doing

Updated 10/7/2014 7:05 PM

The choppy video of former Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancé in a casino elevator was shocking for many, but for Kane County authorities and domestic violence victim advocates it was an all too familiar scene.

"That punch that we all saw on the video in that elevator is what domestic abuse and domestic violence is," Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon said during his monthly meeting Tuesday with reporters.


"It happens far more frequently than people realize," McMahon continued. "We see it with highly educated, professional people. We see it with uneducated, unemployed citizens as well."

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and victim advocates at shelters in Aurora and Elgin say the Ray Rice abuse case has helped start the conversation.

"It's not just an NFL problem, it's a problem everywhere," said Michelle Meyer, executive director of Mutual Ground, which operates a shelter in Aurora and provides service to victims and their families.

"Once violence starts, it increases in frequency and severity," added Maureen Manning-Rosenfeld, a counselor and director of client services at the Elgin-based Community Crisis Center.

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Advocates say domestic abuse is a learned behavior and specialized counseling is key for some to prevent future abuse.

Rosenfeld and Meyer give high marks to the Kane County's Domestic Violence Deferred Prosecution Program, through which first-time offenders admit guilt and enter the program.

Part of the program is counseling and reinforcing that the abuser, not the victim, caused the arrest, jail and other consequences.

Since the 12-month program began in 2010, 78 percent of people -- 354 out of 453 -- have completed it; 339 people are in the program now.

McMahon also is working with the FBI and Aurora University to study recidivism rates for this and other diversion programs in Kane County.

Both the Community Crisis Center and Mutual Ground have a variety of events planned for this month.

On Thursday, Oct. 23, Teri Jendusa Nicolai will speak at 7 p.m. at Elgin Community College, 1700 Spartan Drive, Elgin. In January 2004, she went to pick up her kids from her ex-husband's home when he beat her with a bat, stuffed her in a garbage can and hid her in a storage locker in Wheeling, where she was found 26 hours later.

As for Ray Rice, both Meyer and Rosenfeld say authorities made the right call when he was admitted into a diversion program.

"I believe treatment works. I'm a counselor," Rosenfeld said. "People can change."

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