CHAMPAIGN — A new local task force will hold its first meeting Tuesday afternoon in Champaign to launch an effort aimed at ending domestic violence and sexual assault.
The Central Illinois Domestic Violence Task Force meeting, set for 1:30 p.m. at the I Hotel in Champaign, has been organized by the Center for Women in Transition, which operates A Woman's Place domestic violence shelter in Urbana.
The center's leaders have assembled representatives from law enforcement, the criminal justice system, education, health care, churches and government.
A Woman's Place serves people of Champaign, Ford, Douglas and Piatt counties, so law enforcement and state's attorney representatives have been invited from all four counties, said Center for Women in Transition Executive Director Nancy Hyatt.
The new group will be launching a "No More" initiative for the local area, Hyatt said. No More is a national initiative intended to end domestic violence and sexual assault.
Hyatt said her agency looks for this new task force to focus on interventions for domestic violence victims, how to do a better job to hold abusers accountable, and how to expand education and awareness for domestic violence in the local area.
"I think it's all about what we can do better to help the victims, to hold the abusers accountable, and, ultimately the big thing is what can we do to eradicate domestic violence in central Illinois," she said.
Domestic violence shelters in Illinois, including the one in Urbana, become so full sometimes they are forced to move victims outside their home communities to those in other areas of the state that may have space for them, Hyatt said.
The Urbana shelter has seen the number of clients — the vast majority of them women and children — it serves grow from 479 in 2011 to 553 last year, according to the agency's Director of Programs Katie Sissors.
Hyatt said many people aren't aware of what domestic violence is in all its forms.
Domestic violence is a crime committed by "any person who hits, chokes, kicks, threatens, harasses or interferes with the personal liberty of another family or household member," according to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's website.
Under Illinois law, family or household members are defined as family members related by blood, people who are married or used to be married, people who share or used to share a home, apartment or other common dwelling, people who have or allegedly have a child in common or a blood relationship through a child in common, people who are dating or engaged or used to date (including same sex couples) and people with disabilities and their personal assistants, according to Madigan's office.