KENOSHA — Domestic violence homicides have increased each of the last three years in Wisconsin. Advocates say the pandemic has only created more challenges for victims.
Kenosha’s mayor says eight of the city’s 12 homicides this year were a result of domestic violence. Advocates who work to prevent domestic violence in Kenosha say isolation and financial hardships brought on by the pandemic are putting far more women in danger in their own homes.
The sound of screaming on the other end of a 911 call Tuesday night led officers to a devastating scene in Kenosha. Police say the deadly shooting that left three dead and two critically injured was a result of domestic violence.
"We don't want to get to this point where the police are being called or these sort of events occur, because they're tragic and they affect people's lives up and down the spectrum in a family like that,” said Byron Wright.
Wright is the interim executive director of Women & Children’s Horizons, a non-profit agency in Kenosha that provides shelter, advocacy and prevention efforts for hundreds of domestic violence victims each year.
"It is a long-lasting trauma for everyone,” he said.
Gwen Fayne is an advocate who works directly with victims who are struggling to find safety.
“It’s scary, because you have these people that you thought, ‘Oh, they're at home, they're safe during this pandemic,’ but now we know that not every home is safe,” she said.
Wisconsin’s latest domestic violence homicide report shows 60 domestic violence victims were murdered 2020, a steady increase from the two previous years.
According to End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, 90 percent of the perpetrators were men with an average age of 37 years old.
The report shows the victims weren’t just intimate partners. Their ages ranged from 3 to 73 years old. 80 percent of the domestic violence homicides last year happened in urban areas, according to the annual report.
"A big factor is isolation because a lot of times, women who are in domestic violence situations, whoever is putting them in that situation tries to isolate them anyway,” Wright said. “Well, the pandemic did that. And another thing is is a lot of times, even if you are in a bad situation, you were able to go other places and kind of escape - and that just has not been the case during the pandemic."
Women & Children’s Horizons is also aware of the financial hardships that sometimes leave women and their kids with the choice of staying with their abuser to keep a roof over their head or to live on the streets. Fayne says that is never the case when victims reach out for help with shelter and legal support to file for restraining orders.
"I know we can't prevent everything and every incident, but just if they have the safety planning, if they know the red flags, if they know when to recognize that a situation is escalating, where to go for that help," said Wright.