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BLOOMINGTON -- Domestic violence is not a private matter.

"In the state's attorney's office, we're screening cases every day," said McLean County State's Attorney Bill Yoder. "And we're only getting the tip of the iceberg."

"Domestic violence is almost at epidemic proportions," said Donna Baker of El Paso, who provides free hair salon services to victims of domestic violence. "Everybody knows somebody who has been in a domestic violence relationship."

But no one knows the prevalence because many victims don't report to police, panelists agreed Tuesday during the fifth annual "It's Time to Talk" conference at Second Presbyterian Church. Sponsored by the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence, the 11th Judicial Circuit Family Violence Coordinating Council and other organizations, more than 200 people attended the conference.

In a 2005 national survey by the Corporate Alliance, 21 percent of adult respondents identified themselves as victims of intimate partner violence and 64 percent of them said it affected their work.

Emergency department patients are screened for domestic violence, said Dr. Lamont Tyler, OSF St. Joseph Medical Center's medical director of specialty physician services.

Since 1994 State Farm Insurance Cos. has had a workplace violence policy that includes how employees can report domestic violence, said Dan Consalvo, manager of corporate security. All employers should have workplace violence policies, he said.

Symptoms of domestic violence go beyond unexplained bruises. Victims may change their behavior, become more isolated or appear afraid of a controlling partner who disrespects them, said Kim Wells, executive director of the Bloomington-based Corporate Alliance, and Cheryl Bristor-Wilson, a Chicago-based licensed clinical social worker.

"If you're concerned about someone, ask them ‘Are you safe at home?'" Wells advised.

She said she would risk having a friend upset with her rather than to pass up an opportunity to help her.

Sources of help include Mid Central Community Action's Countering Domestic Violence Program (309-827-7070), PATH Senior Services (309-827-4005) and YWCA McLean County Stepping Stones (also 309-827-4005).


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