WAUKESHA, Wis — The tragedy in Waukesha is having an unintended effect on domestic violence. Advocates and the police say victims are not dialing 911 in an emergency.
The Waukesha Police Department says 911 is the number people should use for life or death emergencies or while a crime is in progress. But they have heard from their partners at the Women’s Center, a domestic violence advocacy group, that victims have not been using that lifeline.
“They had endured another physically violent incident and they didn’t want to be a drain on the community resources, knowing that our law enforcement and health care systems were handling Sunday’s crisis,” said Angela Mancuso, executive director of the Women’s Center.
Instead, victims have been calling the Women’s Center 24-hour hotline. Waukesha Police Captain Dan Baumann says they a plan in place for major emergency events, like the attack on the Christmas parade, to make sure they can still answer every call.
“We plan for all various different events, but specifically we're addressing the issue of domestic violence. Should people feel they're going to burden a system that's been taxed over the last 24 to 48 hours and have we been taxed, yes, but we have the capacity to continue and carry on,” said Baumann.
Mancuso says they are seeing more life or death calls in general. In the last year, there were 68 deaths from domestic violence in Wisconsin. That is a death every five days. Baumann says they want to respond while the crime is in progress to get people out of dangerous situations.
“If we can get them the resources that they need, they get a voice, a voice that they haven't had for a while,” said Baumann.
Domestic violence calls across the county have been on the rise since the pandemic began, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. The organization says it has seen its highest incoming call volume ever in 2020 with 636,968 calls, chats and texts. Advocates say it's important victims of domestic violence know they have access to help, especially as we head into the holiday season.
“Holidays can be a lot, and specifically holidays following a horrendous tragedy in a community. It is true holiday can exacerbate an already abusive or violent situations and relationships,” said Mancuso. “We were happy that people were at least reaching out to us, but if someone is injured or in a dangerous situation, please call 911.”
If you do need to talk to someone about domestic abuse, the Women’s Center 24 hotline is 262.542.3828.