Beth McCormack will never forget the client who was chained to her front porch like a dog with a collar around her neck by her husband.
“She was rescued by a neighbor,” said McCormack, a Partner at Beermann LLP who has spent most of her adult life trying to help domestic violence victims. “She had broken bones in her face to where her eye sockets didn’t exist.”
But McCormack, a Northfield resident, stressed that many domestic violence cases aren’t physical. Often she said, especially in the North Shore, are about husbands using financial power and control over their wives to keep them in relationships. McCormack said many victims tell her that they wish their spouses would hit them, so leaving the relationship would be easier.
“People see the physical abuse, but what people forget is that there are cases where all day, every day, where the victim is experiencing terrifying things that are not physical,” McCormack said. “The reality is it’s more about the power and control in each house.”
The number one reason women in abusive relationships feel they can’t leave is because they are financially abused.
McCormack is trying to help victims by hosting Allstate’s Purple Purse Challenge Breakfast at Skokie Country Club on October 7 in Glencoe. For the past three years, McCormack has led the event, which benefits domestic violence survivors and is held during October’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
McCormack also is working with Between Friends – a group that supports building communities without domestic violence – to assist North Shore victims. The efforts are in the budding stages, and ideas include increasing awareness, more tailored counseling, increased court advocacy and a myriad of other services. McCormack said domestic violence victims in the North Shore typically have to travel to Chicago or Waukegan for those types of services.
“For people with means, many try to pretend that domestic violence is not happening, but that’s simply not true,” McCormack said.
McCormack has been an advocate for domestic violence victims for more than three decades. As a student in downstate Gibson City, McCormack watched for three-plus years while her best friend first suffered verbal abuse from her boyfriend and eventually physical abuse.
“At first, he would tell her what she could wear, who she could be with, and how she could act, and I was confused by it,” McCormack said. “Her relationship declined to the place where she was physically abused and that’s when I thought I better pay attention. I knew that a black eye was bad.”
While serving as a clerk for Judge J.G. Townsend in Champaign County, she met countless domestic violence survivors.
“That’s when I understood what it truly was, and I was able to piece together what I saw happening with my friend,” McCormack said. “I knew then that I had to do everything in my power to stop this.”
She has taken that aggressive attitude into educational path and her career. She started McLean County’s first domestic violence unit in the mid-1990s. McCormack has been in private practice since the late 1990s and with Beermann since 2013. In that time she started a domestic violence unit in downstate McLean County and has represented thousands of domestic violence survivors.
McCormack never dreamed in the early 1980s that the cycle of violence would still be happening. Her dream now is that it will end in her daughter’s lifetime.
Beth McCormack, Family Law Partner