Imagine being so fearful of angering someone you love that you find yourself walking on eggshells to keep peace whenever they are around. You try to eliminate conflict; you have dinner ready on time (their favorite), you keep the kids quiet, you make pleasantries about their day. But still, the slightest thing sets the person off, and he/she flies into a violent rage--with you as the target. Sgt. Saundra Campbell said this is a way of life for many people who are victims of domestic violence. "Victims lead very stressful lives," she said. "They learn to read the offenders' moods and try to eliminate anything that may set off the abuse." Unfortunately, nearly anything can trigger violence--such as weather or traffic congestion--so the victim learns to get through each day--one episode at a time.
So why don't the victims leave abusive situations? Sgt. Campbell said a common misconception is that victims don't mind weathering the abuse. Completely false, she said. "No one enjoys being hit. No one." Victims often stay in violent relationships out of fear of even greater physical harm (including death), economic dependence, social isolation, or for the sake of children, to name just a few reasons.
Sgt. Campbell offered signs you may see if someone you know is experiencing abuse and provided information on the safe places to which someone being abused can turn to for help. She also explained the legal options available to victims.
During the second hour of class, Detective Tom Agos spoke about the Investigations Division. Investigations handles a variety of serious offenses, including burglaries, gun offenses, gangs, white supremacist activity, and sexual crimes and offenders. Several member of the class were concerned about the possibility of sexual offenders residing in their neighborhoods, so Detective Agos explained that both the Lake County Sheriff's and the State Police web sites provide a list of registered sex offenders and their addresses as public knowledge. When a sex offender is charged, the offender is required by law to register with the law enforcement agencies for a period of 10 years.
The last hour of class was devoted to a discussion of gangs and white supremacist activity in Gurnee. While gang activity is present in Gurnee, it's fortunately not as widespread as it is in other areas, largely due to the GPD's diligence in working to prevent an increase. Detective Agos showed slides of gang graffiti, tatoos and other body markings, clothing, and hand signals gang members use as identifiers. He also explained reasons youths enter gangs and what life within the gang cycle is like. Gang involvement can have nothing but tragic results for those involved, so it's important to reach youths before they are recruited. He stressed the importance of parental awareness in their children's activities and choices.
The topics discussed tonight were serious and, at times, sobering, but the information provided was invaluable. It pays to be aware of what is going on in our community.
Topics for next week's class include internal investigations and visits from two NIPAS members.