In just over a month this past summer, six women were slain as a result of intimate-partner homicides in Cook County. The names of these victims faded quickly from public attention soon after their stories hit the newspapers. But their personal tragedies involving intimate-partner abuse remind us of an alarming problem that, all too often, lurks in the shadows of our communities until it is too late.

A Guest Essay By State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez

October marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and here in Cook County, tens of thousands of women each year report that they have been victims of this crime. On a national level, the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44, more common than cancer deaths, car accidents and muggings.

It is safe to say that these numbers must be even higher, because we know that domestic violence is one of the most chronically underreported crimes. We also know that violence between parents or caretakers is extremely likely to be transmitted to the next generation. This is a generational epidemic, affecting individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, nationality and even gender.

As the Cook County State’s Attorney, I am extremely committed to doing everything within the power of my office to prosecute domestic violence cases to the fullest extent of the law. But our involvement in prosecution comes after the crime has occurred, I believe that as prosecutors we need to look for new ways to renew the fight against domestic violence and call attention to the problem by working to improve both services to and support for the victims of this crime.

There is good news to report here in Cook County, where the Chief Judge has convened a task force to make important recommendations about the operation of our domestic violence court. The task force is scheduled to publish recommendations this fall, and we look forward to working on implementing them.

In the State’s Attorney’s office, we are already working very hard on this issue and putting practices into place to provide more support for victims, as well as increasing  our communication with complaining victims and witnesses. We have also consolidated our domestic violence division between the City of Chicago and the suburbs, and we are working hard to improve coordination between Chicago police and other law-enforcement agencies.

Given the statistics we see with this crime, it is clear that there is more work to be done. As we mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, please consider what you can do to help make a difference.