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Domestic violence deaths see a spike in Milwaukee County and people of color disproportionately affected

Posted at 8:01 PM, Jul 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-21 21:01:48-04

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee County has been seeing a tragic surge in the number of domestic violence-related deaths. It is a trend not just happening in Milwaukee but across the state. Right now, every four days, someone is killed by domestic violence in Wisconsin and the people dying at a disproportionate rate are people of color.

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Leana Vang is the director of outreach & education at the Hmong American Women’s Association in Milwaukee.

Leana Vang is the director of outreach & education at the Hmong American Women’s Association in Milwaukee. She says they look to help all Southeast Asians. Milwaukee police say yesterday a man murdered his wife, 49-year-old Ladda Donsanouphith, at 34th and National, then ran from officers before he was tased. Then the man shot and killed himself.

“When there is a tragic story like this, it hits home for us because these are the work that the Hmong American Women Association is trying to prevent,” Yang said.

Vang says especially for people who are refugees or immigrants into the country there might be cultural barriers to getting help. She says along with language and economic barriers, she often sees people come in who do not understand what they are experiencing in their home is violence and is not normal.

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(Source: Raycom Media)

“There seems to be more values towards men and when there is more values towards men that means there is a lesser value for women, girls and queer, trans folks; meaning their lives right,” said Yang.

When it comes to domestic violence deaths, according to the Wisconsin Domestic Violence Homicide Report, people of color are disproportionately represented: 48% are people of color, 52 % white. According to the US Census, in Wisconsin, only 13% of the population is a minority.

When it comes to homicide deaths from domestic violence in Milwaukee County, the homicide from yesterday is just the start of a string of violence. The Milwaukee County Medical Examiners Office says there have been six domestic homicides so far in July. Three people killed since Monday including a teenager.

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Courtney Olson is the chair of the Domestic Violence Fatality Review Initiatives for the Governor’s Council on Domestic Violence.

“When it comes to deaths related to domestic violence, I track data on a daily basis, around the state and what we're seeing is that we can anticipate domestic violence-related death one every four days, so we're at least 50 so far for the year of the majority of them happen here in Milwaukee due to just urban density,” said Courtney Olson, chair of the Domestic Violence Fatality Review Initiatives for the Governor’s Council on Domestic Violence.

There has been a 38% increase in domestic violence-related deaths since the start of the pandemic. Both Olson and Vang say COVID made domestic violence worse in part because people were forced to stay indoors together. But as the world has opened back up they say the issues remain.

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Scene near 26th and State

“I think there are a lot of reasons. There's the economic uncertainties. I think there's a lot more guns per household, people acquired more weapons during the pandemic, job losses, family stress, I think all of that speaks to a loss of connection from one another and from available resources,” said Olson.

If you or someone you know needs help, Olson strongly urges domestic violence victims and survivors to connect to resources. She says people actively using domestic violence centers and support systems are more likely to have a more favorable outcome in gaining their independence.

If you would like to connect to Hmong and Southeast Asian resources, you can call the Hmong Family Strengthening Helpline 877-740-4292.

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