Leaders in Milwaukee are growing more concerned about domestic violence trends as social distancing restrictions continue.
Nearly a dozen community activists, outreach coordinators and faith leaders gathered virtually on Saturday afternoon to discuss ways to curb domestic violence in Milwaukee. Officials say there have been 23 domestic violence homicides in Milwaukee so far this year, compared to four at this time in 2019.
On Tuesday, 48-year-old Cathy King was shot and killed near 27th and North Avenue. In a GoFundMe, her family writes King was a mother of three and a victim of domestic violence.
Last week, five people were found dead inside a home near 12th and Locust. Afterwards, county leaders noted domestic violence reports had increased 28 percent in the month of April.
Leaders said Saturday's meeting was not a reaction to recent events, but a way to reach out to those who need help, especially during Safer at Home.
"As a domestic violence survivor myself, and as a person who has lost my son and my father to homicide, is that we cannot afford to normalize this," said Karin Tyler, Milwaukee's Family Violence Prevention Manager.
Officials blame the uptick on the pandemic, but noted that domestic violence has been rooted in the community long before the virus. Leaders discussed how racial and economic injustices need to also be addressed so that they don't continue to contribute to the violence.
"The men that I'm dealing with, I'm dealing with the manifestations of self-hatred, I'm dealing with the ramifications of slavery," said Shawn Muhammad of The ASHA Project, a domestic abuse prevention organization geared specifically towards the African American community.
Meanwhile, the pandemic has forced organizations to adapt their outreach. Many have focused heavily on virtual communication.
"It's hard now to get out and knock on doors if you’re not protected and don’t know where you’re going," said Lanelle Ramey of Mentor MKE. "But I can say a lot of the mentoring programs and our program partners have really pushed into a mobile virtual space to make sure they have a platform for young people."
The Milwaukee Office of Violence Prevention will launch an awareness campaign in the summer and continue to adapt as social distancing restrictions ease. It will also host virtual events in the next few weeks to feature the work of prevention groups.
If you or someone you know needs help, call 211 or go to stayhomemke.com. Those seeking shelter should call Sojourner Family Peace Center at 414-933-2722.The Office of Violence Prevention has information on resources in English and Spanish, as well as the Alma Center.