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Mayor Rahm Emanuel today announced continued funding for Resource and Information Advocates (RIAs). RIAs served 5,781 victims of domestic violence (DV) in the first year of the program, nearly double the initial projection of 3,000 clients per year. The Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) launched the pilot in July 2013, creating a new service model to provide front end services to a high volume of clients in addition to the work of the existing court advocates.
“Resource and Information Advocates play an essential role in breaking the cycle of violence and have already seen tremendous success as the first program of its kind in Illinois,” said Mayor Emanuel. “These advocates reduce victims’ fears and empower them with a better understanding of the legal process. We will continue to come together as a city to support victims of domestic violence so they do not suffer in silence.”
RIAs improve a victim’s understanding of the options and processes at the domestic violence courthouse. They provide an overview of available options to victims and ensure clients understand the rights outlined in the Illinois Domestic Violence Act (IDVA). RIAs also refer victims to other resources throughout the court and educate clients after court proceedings on their next steps.
"The RIAs have been such a welcome addition to the DV Court,” said DFSS Commissioner Evelyn Diaz. “We are encouraged that so many victims seeking help have received it through this model and we are proud to be able to continue funding it in 2015."
According to court data, more than 10,000 people sought assistance at this courthouse in 2012. The Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network estimates that only 6,000 clients received court advocacy services during that period, so approximately 4,000 victims navigated the court without assistance.
As a result of the successful RIA client services, 80 percent of RIA clients reported that they felt better informed about their legal options and 86 percent stated that they better understood the court process. Attorneys, court clerks and existing court advocates also spend less time on shorter services and more time providing in-depth services while being able to better focus on their assigned duties.
The centralized DV Court is a high volume court with many types of cases heard in eight court rooms, including orders of protection in civil and criminal court rooms; criminal prosecutions for domestic violence crimes, stalking and sexual abuse; sexual assault civil no contact orders; stalking no contact orders; and bond hearings for domestic violence offenders.
RIAs are just one part of Mayor Emanuel and the City of Chicago’s overall domestic violence strategy. Last November, Mayor Emanuel joined Vice President Joe Biden to break ground on the first domestic violence shelter in more than a decade. The ceremony launched the construction of the new, two-story WINGS Metro facility housing, a 40-bed shelter with retail and resale shops, offices and social services for clients.
Last December, Mayor Emanuel, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, the Chicago Police Department (CPD), and DFSS announced the creation of an inter-governmental task force to address domestic violence in the City of Chicago. The task force focuses on three goals: developing and implementing state-of-the-art training for CPD Officers; developing a more proactive law enforcement response to high-risk domestic violence incidents; and increasing services for domestic violence victims and their families.
Mayor Emanuel has worked to support victims of domestic violence throughout his career, including crafting the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994, with then Senator Biden. The landmark federal legislation developed a comprehensive approach to improve the criminal justice response to violence against women. The VAWA continues to provide access to service victims and their family’s needs.