For every man convicted in a Cook County court of beating his wife or girlfriend, five men brought in on similar charges walk away legally unscathed, says the Chicago Tribune. Despite official promises to help women pursue abuse complaints, that conviction rate is only getting worse. Prosecuting domestic violence has never been easy, mostly because women often choose to drop charges. But the odds of conviction rise when women get help navigating a complex court system and prosecutors provide early, intensive contact with victims.
A Tribune analysis found that one-sixth of the 19,000 domestic violence cases brought each year in Cook County now result in convictions. That dismal record feeds a vicious cycle: With so few convictions, victims lose faith in the courts, and the violence continues unabated, advocates say. “It looks like there isn’t anyone holding abusers accountable,” said Dawn Dalton of the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network. The Tribune analysis found that nearly 14 percent of defendants countywide faced domestic violence charges multiple times over just a three-year period. Frustrated by the bureaucracy and long delays between arrest and the start of trial, many women choose to drop cases, victims and advocates say. In August, Chief Circuit Judge Timothy Evans named a panel of judges, lawyers, advocates, and civic leaders to find solutions.