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Duchnowski: Support available in court for domestic violence victims

A short news release about an alleged violation of an order of protection wound up on my desk weeks ago, and it kept catching my attention.

The details bugged me: A man was charged with a misdemeanor for allegedly grabbing the arm of a woman’s jacket as she walked into a courtroom. The woman was his wife, and she was in DeKalb County Courthouse over a court order protecting her and their four children from him.

When I looked up the details of the case, I was reminded why I think domestic violence advocates and dedicated police officers are so important. I also was reminded how seemingly minor actions, such as grabbing a jacket sleeve or claiming you are teasing, can become much more threatening when you think about the cycle of abuse.

In this particular case, a 32-year-old woman said she decided to take her children, ages 5 and younger, to Walmart for a couple of hours one evening after her husband kicked their 4-year-old son in the stomach and threatened their 5-year-old son with a belt, court records show.

Before they could leave, though, he banged on the windows of their minivan as she and their children sat inside. He also jumped on the van to unhook the garage door opener with the emergency pull cord, her petition states. He was asleep when they returned.

The woman alleges that the next day, her husband put the 4-year-old outside in the snow wearing only socks and pajamas when the temperature was minus 15 degrees, court records show. She found the boy crying and banging on the patio window, the petition states.

The couple, whose names I’m withholding to protect victims of alleged domestic violence, separated in July, but later reconciled, the petition states.

“I thought it would be best for me to stay with [my husband] to make sure he didn’t hurt the kids,” the mother wrote in her petition. “I thought that by counteracting his abuse with my presence, it would stop.”

He tried to explain his behavior, though. Two days after her husband was served with the order of protection, he left her a voicemail telling her that the 4-year-old was laughing outside in the cold and that threatening the 5-year-old was a joke, court records state.

“I was just messing with him like I always do with the belt when I come home and say, ‘Who wants the belt, who wants the belt?’ “ a court document says he told her.

About three weeks later, the mother was in court for a hearing on the order of protection. Her husband grabbed the arm of her jacket from behind, trying to get her attention as she walked into the courtroom, and clapped his hands while sitting behind her in the courtroom, according to court records.

The sheriff’s detective was in the courtroom and ultimately, the officer arrested the husband, who was charged with violating of an order of protection.

The court records I found don’t show what support, if any, the woman has from our local domestic violence agency.

There is support, though, and it’s often needed to give people the courage break the cycle of abuse. Safe Passage of DeKalb has two legal advocates to help people fill out and file the paperwork for orders of protection. They also will sit with the alleged victims before and during court hearings, said Emily LeFew, Safe Passage’s director of domestic violence services.

“We always follow their lead,” LeFew said. “Whatever they need from us, we’ll try our best to do that.”

For more information or to seek services, call the 24-hour hotline at 815-756-5228.

• Jillian Duchnowski is the Daily Chronicle’s news editor. Reach her at 815-756-4841, ext. 2221, or email

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