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Aggressive. Experienced.

Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney
Former Cook County Felony Prosecutor

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Domestic Violence in IL: Why People Abuse

Beyond the law, however, if you want to put a stop to domestic violence, then you first have to understand why it occurs. Those who commit crimes of domestic violence in Illinois aren’t monsters – they’re normal people who are driven to commit these crimes for various reasons.

Here is how Illinois defines domestic violence and a few of the factors that have been found to drive people to commit these acts.

Domestic Violence: What Is It?

For a crime to be deemed an act of domestic violence, it must be committed against a person who is considered a household or family member. That includes:

  • Anyone you are currently married to or have been married to
  • Anyone you are related to by marriage or blood, such as children, stepchildren, and parents
  • Anyone who you currently or formerly have shared a home with
  • Anyone you share a child with
  • Anyone you are dating or engaged to
  • Anyone with a disability and their caregiver

The penalties for crimes of domestic violence depend on what the underlying crime is. For example, domestic battery is considered a Class A misdemeanor, which can result in up to 12 months in jail. However, it can be classed as a Class 4 felony in some circumstances when a prior conviction is involved, which can result in a prison sentence of up to six years.

Reasons Behind Domestic Violence

So, what things can drive a person to abuse? In some circumstances, it may be that someone simply is pushed too far, and they react in anger – but what is underlying that anger? After all, people get angry all the time and don’t end up committing crimes.

Many studies have been done to understand why someone perpetrates acts of domestic violence and several underlying causes have been revealed. We’ll go through the findings below.

Reasons Behind Domestic Violence

Mental Health Issues

For many with mental health issues, they seek relief of their symptoms by self-medicating with alcohol or drugs. This leads to drug and alcohol abuse, but the underlying cause is still an untreated mental illness – plus the fact that addiction is a mental illness all its own. Drug and alcohol abuse leads to intoxication, which then dulls inhibitions and makes the person who is under the influence more likely to take actions that lead to domestic violence.

Furthermore, some substances can lead to increased paranoia, which can lead the person committing the act of domestic violence to believe that their victim is out to get them. They believe they are defending themselves.

It’s important to note that, even though self-medicating is something that people use to help ease their symptoms of mental illness, it often makes things even worse. Substance abuse creates a vicious cycle where those who are using are more prone to abusive behavior.

Not all substance abusers are perpetrators of domestic violence, however. In fact, researchers have found that those who are substance abusers also happen to be more likely to become victims of domestic violence. So, as you can see, it’s a complicated issue.

The Behavior is Learned

People tend to model the behavior they’ve been exposed to while growing up and, unfortunately, domestic violence is often a learned behavior. Many who commit domestic violence crimes witnessed them in their own families growing up or were victims themselves. Others may be influenced by pop culture or their peer circle.

If someone witnessed domestic violence growing up and was never shown that the behavior was wrong, then those types of acts will only become normalized for that person. This can lead to future acts of abuse.

Issues with Control

In many cases, domestic violence occurs in an attempt to control another person. The person who is committing the domestic violence feels that they need to exert control over a victim and becomes angry if they lose this control.

Chicago DOmestic Violence Defense Lawyer

For example, victims are held to standards of control by those abusing them. If they fall outside of these expectations, then tactics will be used to make them fall under control again. That can and does end in domestic violence. However, the person committing it justifies the behavior as a way to keep people around them in line – or because they feel threatened.

Social aid exists for those in relationships that involve domestic violence. It’s never too late to reach out for help, and there are many programs out there that can aid someone who is struggling with these issues. If you identify tendencies to commit acts of domestic violence and abuse, then you can reach out for help before you start to experience legal repercussions for the acts.


About the Author:

Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, murder, and drug crimes. His work has been recognized by Avvo, Expertise, National Trial Lawyers, and others, and he has been featured on countless news outlets for his experience and knowledge in criminal law.



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