No one should have to live with a spouse, significant other, or relative that makes them feel unsafe in their own home. One sign that you are in an abusive relationship is a constant fear of your partner, especially if you find yourself constantly monitoring your speech and behavior to avoid a blowup, fight, or argument. Other signs include a partner that constantly insults or belittles you and a relationship that constantly leaves you depressed and scared for your safety.
If you are in such a relationship, there are many resources available at low or no cost to help you escape your situation and move into a healthier lifestyle.
The Hotline – 1-877-863-6338, TTY 1-877-863-6339
Since 1998, the City of Chicago has provided a hotline, available 24/7, to help victims of domestic violence locate resources to improve their situation. The lines are staffed with trained domestic violence advocates who can provide general information and referrals to domestic violence services, including:
- Legal advocacy
- Civil legal services
- Supervised child visitation centers
- Perpetrators services
The line is staffed with English and Spanish speaking advocates and a third party service provides access to assistance in over 140 other languages.
Stuff You’ll Need
When fleeing a violent spouse or significant other, it’s important to maintain your independence after leaving. After all, the last thing you’ll want to do is to return home to get the paperwork you forgot. Here is a checklist of items you should consider gathering, if you have time:
- Driver’s License/ID card/Social Security card/Passport
- Cash, credit cards, checkbooks
- Address book
- Vital records, such as marriage certificate, birth certificates, school records, vaccinations
- Legal records, such as divorce papers and a protective order
For credit and debit cards, depending on your abusive relative’s technological proficiency, you might want to consider using them sparingly, and only in areas far from where you’ll be staying. Think “off the grid.” And whatever you do, don’t pay for lodging with your credit cards. Online records will show your location in a matter of days or even hours.
The Legal Process
Fortunately, Chicago has a ton of resources available to victims of domestic violence, including legal assistance in many cases. In addition to possible divorce proceedings, you’ll want to get a protective order as soon as possible. That little piece of paper orders your violent relative to stay away, or be arrested. It also can serve as an order for child support.
If you’ve already hired an attorney, they can fill the form out and file it for you. If you are without counsel, the form, with information and guidance on how to fill it out, can be found here, or in automated form here. With either form, fill it out and file it at your local courthouse. There is no filing fee for these forms.
The protective order is not binding until it is filed and you have seen a judge.
- Consult a Chicago Family Law Attorney (FindLaw)
- Domestic Violence Agencies By City (State of Illinois Human Services)
- The Illinois Legal Aid Society Homepage (Low Income Legal Services)
- Domestic Violence (FindLaw’s Learn About the Law)
Domestic Violence Resources in the Chicago Area