Stacy Peterson’s former pastor to speak at ‘Take Back the Night’ event
BY DENISE M. BARAN-UNLAND Correspondent September 27, 2013 12:24PM
Pastor Neil Schori will speak at the Will County Take Back the Night event Thursday. | Supplied photo
If you go
What: Will County Take Back the Night
When: 5:30 p.m. Oct. 3
Where: First Assembly of God, 1741 Essington Road, Joliet
Featured speaker: Pastor Neil Schori, key witness in Drew Peterson trial
Etc: Please bring nonperishable food items, paper goods and/or grocery store and gas station gift cards to donate for domestic violence shelters.
Information: Visit www.WillTBTN.com and www.facebook.com/WillTBTN.
Updated: October 30, 2013 6:35AM
When the Rev. Neil Schori, former pastor for Westbrook Christian Church in Bolingbrook, approached police and told them a missing woman named Stacy Peterson had confided that she was a victim of domestic abuse, Schori learned that the information was considered “hearsay” evidence.
That irked Schori, now pastor at Naperville Christian Church, especially since he considers domestic abuse a pandemic. In similar circumstances now, he has some victims fill out affidavits and make videos of their allegations, in case something happens to them.
Schori will be the keynote speaker at the Will County Take Back the Night event Thursday in Joliet.
“Domestic abuse is not just a woman’s issue; it impacts everyone,” Schori said. “A little boy that grows up in a home where his father abuses his mom is far more likely to turn into an abuser. A little girl that witnesses her father abusing her mom is far more likely to marry an abuser. Like it or not, we pass on to our children who we are.”
Working with domestic abuse victims has been quite educational for Schori, who has a master’s degree in counseling. He had never encountered a domestic abuse situation until Stacy Peterson approached him about counseling her and her husband Drew before Stacy disappeared. Schori wound up becoming a key witness in Drew Peterson’s trial on charges he murdered Kathleen Savio, his third wife.
Drew Peterson was convicted in that case. Stacy Peterson, Drew’s fourth wife, is still missing, and he is considered the prime suspect in her disappearance.
“At first, I said, ‘Oh, Lord, why did you put me in this position?’” Schori said. “I had spent a few years doing hospice ministry in Chicago and St. Louis and then used my counseling gifts in churches.
“Now the issue of domestic violence has become a huge part of my calling and it’s all because of Stacy.”
Every week, Schori said, he talks to women from all over the country and counsels them on developing plans to escape abusive situations. In some cases, this includes asking the victim to fill out an evidentiary affidavit of abuse, which Schori said he created in 2008 with the late Susan Murphy-Milano, a national expert on intimate partner violence.
Schori meets at the church with the victim at a time when the abuser won’t suspect she’s doing it. Schori will then present documentation for the victim to detail, in her own handwriting: the nature of the abuse, the abuser’s name, whether he owns weapons, and any medication he takes. Every page, Schori said, is signed and notarized. A notary public is present at every meeting.
When the victim completes the documentation, Schori videotapes a six-minute presentation and creates two DVDs, one for the victim to give to the person she most trusts, and one he will keep in a safe.
“In the event something happens to her, I deliver this documentation to the proper authorities,” Schori said. “We believe this will eliminate ‘hearsay’ in future cases.”
Schori also helps the victim enter a proper shelter, such as Groundwork in Joliet or Mutual Ground in Aurora. If that fails, he finds the victim temporary refuge with an anonymous family who the abuser does not know.
“The abuser typically goes around to all the relatives,” Schori said.
Schori would like to see October change from “Domestic Violence Awareness Month” to “Domestic Violence Action Month.” Most people are “aware” of domestic violence, Schori said. It’s time to tackle it.
“Domestic abuse has huge ramifications for our culture in not dealing with the subject,” Schori said. “Consolidating resources will make the process simpler for women. The longer women stay in toxic relationships, the more likely they are to die.”
Schori said ending domestic abuse will require three steps: talking, inspiring and training.
“The information needs to be out there so people can become inspired,” Schori said. “Inspired people become trained people. That’s when we’ll see lives changed.”