ROCKFORD (WREX) — If you walk into Rockford City Hall and head up to the 8th floor, you’ll find the Mayor’s Office of Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking Prevention.
And the woman sitting in that office, is Jennifer Cacciapaglia.
“I didn’t grow up in a home with domestic violence,” she says. “I didn’t grow up unsafe.”
But, Cacciapaglia says she’s always had a passion for helping people. She started her career in the Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s Office. She says worked as a prosecutor where she saw domestic violence survivors first hand.
“There are a great deal of people in our community who are in a great deal of emotional pain, suffering physical trauma,” she says.
That’s why in 2017, Rockford’s mayor created this special office to help get a handle on the problem. Part of Cacciapaglia’s job is simply talking with survivors many of whom say they’re frustrated with the number of twists and turns they find as they try to navigate the domestic violence system.
“The first couple of phone calls were pretty overwhelming, Cacciapaglia says. “The stories were horrifying.”
TO help cut down on the number of hoops survivors have to jump through to get help low, Cacciapalgia works alongside several other people across the city.
Some of those people include Mayor Tm McNamara, the Rockford Police Department, former Winnebago County Judge Rosemary Collins, Rockford Alliance Against Sexual Assault and Remedies Renewing Lives.
“We are in contact with her on a daily basis either through email or phone calls,” Lt. Kurt Wisenhand with the Rockford Police Department says.
Cacciapalgia says she shares the information she gets from survivors to those people.
From there, they try to work together to create a stronger web of resources so survivors don’t get lost or tangled in the several hoops of the domestic violence system.
Rockford Police Deputy Chief Carla Redd says Cacciapaglia’s office is already working with the police department to try to enhance communication between RPD and the Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s Office.
“Making sure that we go over each individual case and that they understand the magnitude for the previous reports that have been filed,” Redd says.
But, the information survivors pass along to Cacciapalgia is not forgotten.
“Those responses have been driven into a document, a living document that will continue to change and modified as more information is gathered,” Cacciapalgia says.
The hope is that the details survivors share will generate resources that will go into a family justice center.
Cacciapaglia says that’s the next step to putting an end to the violent cycle.
“Everyone in this community should understand that they are everywhere,” Cacciapaglia says. “They are coming out of every corner of our city.”
The Mayor’s Office of Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking just got a $450,000 grant from the federal government to begin working on that family justice center.
That money will make its way to Rockford over the next three years. Leaders say the first chunk of it will go toward trying to form the family justice center.
The second half will go toward getting the facility up and running.