Victims of domestic violence rarely have a reason to rejoice. But the recent and rather poignant decision of Elisa Sanchez v. Juan Jose Ramirez Torres, 2016 IL App (1st) 151189, has encouraged those subject to physical or emotional abuse and intimidation to seek the help of the courts when they otherwise would remain silent.

In Sanchez, the victim, a mother of four children, advised her partner, Torres, that she wanted to end their 17-year relationship. Torres began a campaign of abuse of Sanchez which prompted her to seek and obtain an emergency order of protection. Notwithstanding Sanchez’s credible testimony of the ongoing abuse and violations of the emergency OP, the trial court denied the request for a plenary OP and instead entered a civil restraining order against Torres.

Noting the ineffectiveness of civil restraining orders in domestic abuse cases, the First District Appellate Court lambasted the trial court for its failure to enter a plenary order of protection even though that court “found all of the prerequisites for a plenary order had been established” and that the obligation to enter a plenary OP is then mandatory. The Court also deeply criticized the trial court’s comment to Sanchez that “she had to ‘respect that [Torres] loves you and he still likes you.” Though the Appellate Court did not believe the trial court had intended to appear insensitive, it noted that for victims of abuse, these types of comments only serve to justify abusers like Torres that their acts were warranted.

The Illinois Domestic Violence Act was made into law to provide a platform for domestic violence sufferers to seek the shelter of the Courts. Although the cycle of domestic violence “sadly, will never be cured,” decisions like Sanchez are paving the way to more “advocacy, awareness and activism” that may allow victims to find peace and heal.

Kathryn L. Mickelson, Family Law Partner