SPRINGFIELD - Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today launched a statewide helpline, to help victims of domestic violence get immediate access to the services they need. The new Domestic Violence Helpline was created by the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS), as part of October, National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The new statewide helpline, 1-877-TO-END-DV, offers a toll-free, 24-hour, 7- days–a-week, multi-lingual, service that links victims to domestic violence services.
“Domestic violence knows no boundaries. It hurts families in all neighborhoods, in all areas or communities in Illinois,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “We must do all we can to protect women and children from abuse. This helpline will give victims of domestic violence a place to turn, no matter where they live in the state, and where they can immediately get the information and services they need.”
The helpline, managed by DHS, was made possible through a statewide expansion of the City of Chicago’s Domestic Violence Helpline. The toll-free number functions as a clearinghouse for domestic violence services and information. Callers will be connected to staff known as Victim Information and Referral Advocates (VIRAS). These trained advocates will link survivors to domestic violence services in their communities including shelter, counseling, legal services, and partner abuse intervention programs. Helpline advocates may also identify non-traditional domestic violence services, provide safety planning or tips, and help survivors explore service options.
The new helpline is designed to protect the confidentiality of the caller, and to meet the information and referral needs of callers throughout the state. Bi-lingual and bi-cultural, Spanish speaking VIRAS are always available and interpretation services for more than 170 languages are immediately accessible to address the needs of other non-English speaking callers. Additionally, the Illinois Statewide Domestic Violence Helpline provides a TTY number, 1-877-863-6339 that increases access to domestic violence services for the deaf and hard of hearing by providing the most up to date technology.
“Expanding the helpline throughout the state will increase access to services for victims in small towns who may be reluctant to contact their hometown provider, said IDHS Secretary Carol L. Adams Ph.D. “Callers to the helpline are not only given referrals, but they can also become connected immediately through a confidential three-way phone link between the caller and the domestic violence services and the helpline.”
In addition to directly providing support to Illinois residents, the helpline will benefit other governmental and non-profit agencies and providers. All non-profit social services agencies, law enforcement, and religious and government institutions can now call 1-877-TO-END-DV for information and links to domestic violence services. The helpline is only of the most recent effort of the Blagojevich Administration to address the needs of women and children affected by domestic violence.
Gov. Blagojevich signed Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA) into law on Aug. 25, 2003, making Illinois one of 11 states that have laws providing non-discrimination and leave provisions for victims of domestic or sexual violence. VESSA allows employees who are victims of domestic or sexual violence or who have a family or household member who is a victim of domestic or sexual violence with up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave in any 12-month period to seek medical attention, legal assistance and counseling.
Gov. Blagojevich signed the Ensuring Success in Schools Act (ESSA) on August 30, 2007. The purpose of this new law is to ensure that youth who victims of domestic or sexual violence can stay safe in school. The law has creates a task force to develop policies and procedures to be implemented by school districts. The law also requires a biannual in-service training for school personnel on the needs of students who are victims of domestic or sexual violence.
In conjunction with this announcement, the Governor issued an Illinois Domestic Violence Awareness Month proclamation that urges victims to use the helpline for assistance. The proclamation states:
WHEREAS, domestic violence is a prevalent social problem in Illinois that not only negatively affects the victim, but also affects the victim’s family, friends and community at large; and
WHEREAS, domestic violence knows no boundaries. It exists in all neighborhoods and cities, and it has no racial, economic, or social barriers; and
WHEREAS, in Illinois alone, there are approximately 115,000 to 125,000 domestic crimes each year; and
WHEREAS, the health-related costs of rape, physical assault, stalking, and homicide by intimate partners exceed $5.8 billion every year, and the annual cost of lost productivity in the workplace due to domestic violence is estimated at $727.8 million, with over 7.9 million paid workdays lost per year; and
WHEREAS, the Illinois Department of Human Services is dedicated to ensuring that Illinois residents live free from domestic violence, promoting prevention, and working in partnership with communities to advance equality, dignity, and respect for all; and
WHEREAS, the Illinois Department of Human Services also funds 64 multi-service domestic violence programs throughout the state, offering counseling and advocacy, legal assistance, children’s services, and shelter and support services at no cost to the victim; and
WHEREAS, this year the Illinois Department of Human Services has expanded the City of Chicago’s Domestic Violence Helpline, 1-877-TO END DV, to provide a toll-free, 24-hour, 7-days-a-week, multilingual, confidential service to all Illinois residents:
THEREFORE, I, Rod R. Blagojevich, Governor of the State of Illinois, do hereby proclaim October 2007 as ILLINOIS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AWARENESS MONTH in Illinois to raise awareness about the problem of domestic violence, and urge all victims to seek help by either calling a local helpline or visiting a local help center.