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Domestic violence: A month of awareness, a year-round issue

Judy Jacobsleft Mike Rosenberg center back Patti Condright from Bataviall hold candles during Mutual Grounds light night candlelight vigil North

Judy Jacobson, left, Mike Rosenberg, center back, and Patti Condon, right, from Batavia all hold candles during Mutual Grounds light the night candlelight vigil at the North Aurora Police Department on Wednesday, October 3, 2012. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

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Call for help

Mutual Ground domestic violence hotline: 630-897-0080

Elgin Community Crisis Center crisis line: 847-697-2380

Updated: October 31, 2012 12:28PM

At this point, officials can’t say exactly what happened inside the Yorkville garage of Joseph Schmitt and his 4-year-old son Wyland — except that the father, in the midst of a divorce, and son died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

But the case seems to mirror a 2005 tragedy in Gilberts in northern Kane County, when Anthony Manglamele, locked in a custody dispute with his estranged wife, strapped their 2-year-old son Riley to his carseat inside the SUV and killed himself and the child with carbon monoxide.

We now are at the tail end of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. And when I talked to Mutual Ground Executive Director Michelle Meyer about the similarities between these two tragedies, she had just finished writing a statement to post on the Facebooks of Chicago area TV stations.

With the latest domestic violence tragedies in the forefront of our news programs, it frustrates us working in the field of domestic violence that no information is given to your audiences that may be sitting in front of their televisions struggling with the same issues. We can only hope that in the future when you report on domestic violence in the news, that you include information about where to get help. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. We need to increase awareness about the help that is available in our state for people that need information about how to become safe and live healthy happy lives.

Domestic violence is a daily occurrence. Statistics indicate 33 percent of all police calls in the U.S. are in response to domestic situations; and that three women are killed daily at the hands of someone they had loved.

In this statement to the media, Meyer was specifically referring to a couple of murder cases that captured big headlines recently: a missing Calumet City woman whose blood-filled home led to the arrest of her boyfriend Donal Clark; and the Oct. 21 shooting at a spa in Deer, Wis. — where a former Chicago man killed three women, including his estranged wife, and wounded four others.

The fact these crimes occurred during Domestic Violence Awareness Month are all the more reason to promote abuse hotlines (Mutual Ground’s domestic violence line is 630-897-0080) and let people know there is help out there, Meyer said. She was also troubled by the fact that because there are so many of these domestic crimes, some get little or no attention.

Meyer said she was walking her dog in August in her Plainfield Township subdivision when a neighbor asked if she’d heard about the arrest of Brian Cooper, the 35-year-old man who lives three doors down from Meyer.

Cooper had been charged in Door County, Wis., with the murders of 21-year-old Alisha Bromfield and her unborn child, then having sex with the woman’s body. The two had been attending the wedding of Cooper’s sister. According to police, the Plainfield man awoke Bromfield, seven months pregnant, in the middle of the night, frustrated with where their relationship was going, and strangled her while she cried out: “Don’t do this to me, think of the baby.”

Meyer was understandably shocked, but also surprised this horrific crime got little attention from the local media.

“This guy lives three doors down from me,” she said, “yet I had to find out about it from a neighbor” days later.

And just as this column was being edited, word came from North Aurora police that a woman and man had both died in a probable case of murder-suicide.

As the head of one of the state’s oldest and most respected domestic violence shelters, Meyer also expressed disappointment in the amount of attention given to Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which can get overshadowed by Breast Cancer Awareness, also an important women’s issue and also celebrated in October.

“We realize all our events may not always be newsworthy,” she said, “but when stories run about what we are doing, we always get someone who calls or comes in for help because they read about it.”

Which is why I’m writing about this topic today. And one more thing before we close out this month: Mutual Ground’s hotline is 630-897-0080. The crisis line for the Elgin Community Crisis Center is 847-697-2380. We can’t throw out those numbers enough.

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