There's a famous 911 call the class of the DeKalb County Sheriff's Citizens Academy were able to listen to this week. Named Lisa's Call, it's a 1991 recording of a six-year-old girl calling for help because her stepfather had been drinking and was hurting her mother.
It's only a few minutes long but in it, you hear the screaming of babies, children and adults. You hear Lisa say "Mommy and Daddy are having a fight." He has a club. Then he knocks out her little sister.
"He's got the baby now," she says at one point.
All the while the 911 dispatcher is trying to get as much information as she can and let Lisa know the police are coming. And then the line goes dead.
"Domestic violence doesn't discriminate," Det. Jackie Lane told the class. One in four women, and one in seven men, will be victims of domestic abuse in their lifetimes. That includes physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
In 2019 the sheriff's office handled 385 cases, about 20% of which were domestic related. Domestic violence is defined as causing bodily harm to a family member or member of the household and can include roommates or exes.
Lane broke down some myths that people have about domestic violence cases. It is not always who calls first who comes out ahead, she said. And there is not always an arrest in the calls.
The goal of the call is to get the victim on the phone immediate help. Law enforcement has relationships with shelters and agencies to get the victim safe and the assistance they need to stay safe. But because of the nature of the relationship, the victims often go back with the abusers.
Domestic violence goes through a sort of cycle. There is the incident when the violence occurs, but it is often followed by a make-up period when the abuser tries to win back the victim with gifts or kind words and actions. But eventually, it goes back to the abuse.
The most dangerous time for a victim is when they leave the relationship. Domestic violence is about control, Lane said, and when the victim is gone the abuser has nothing left to lose.
Illinois has a strangulation law and when a domestic abuser restricts the breathing of a victim, they face years in jail. Former State Rep. Bob Pritchard and DeKalb County Sheriff's Deputy Sarah Frazier were instrumental in getting that law passed, Lane said.
Strangulation is the ultimate form of control, Lane said. The abuser literally controls if and when the victim's next breath comes. It is also a warning for escalated violence, with strangulation indicating a 750% increase in the chance of a homicide occurring.
Lane also said abusers who strangle have a higher chance of going on to either be cop killers or mass shooters.
The sheriff's office first secured a grant for a dedicated domestic violence detective in 2005. When the money dried up, the department continued to fund the position even without the grant money, Lane said.