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'State of emergency:' City leaders, experts say domestic violence needs the community's attention

Posted at 7:22 PM, Feb 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-17 20:22:04-05

MILWAUKEE — The tragic murder of a mother and her two daughters over the weekend has city leaders sounding the alarm on a major issue in our community: domestic violence.

Milwaukee Police said one out of every 5 homicides last year in Milwaukee were sadly a result of domestic violence. City leaders and domestic violence experts say neighbors, friends and family need to stop turning a blind eye to signs of this abuse.

A community reeling from the horrific loss of a Amarah Banks and her two daughters has city leaders urging a new effort to curb domestic violence.

"We're seeing a lot of the violence in the city that is associated with domestic violence," said Mayor Tom Barrett. "This is very much a real concern that we face."

"I think we're in a state of emergency," said Sojourner Family Peace Center President Carmen Pitre.

Sojourner Family Peace Center helped nearly 12,000 domestic violence survivors and their families seek safety in 2019 alone. Pitre said that's a 26-percent increase since the peace center opened its doors five years ago.

"We believe we're just skimming the tip of the iceberg," Pitre said. "There are many people out in our community that we need to be reaching sooner."

Pitre says one thing everyone can do is understand the urgency of the issue, particularly for those who know someone struggling with an abusive relationship.

"We need to stop believing that it's something that it's none of our business because it is our business," Pitre said.

The city of Milwaukee's Office of Violence Prevention connects domestic violence survivors with community resources, but Director Reggie Moore is working to de-stigmatize helping those who are behind the abuse.

"How do we make sure that perpetrators who want to get services, support, counseling, anger management, etc. are able to access those resources without stigma or fear because we shouldn't wait until the criminal justice system has to get involved or somebody's injured or killed," Moore said.

The city of Milwaukee has a committee whose sole focus is addressing domestic violence. Mayor Barrett said they will be meeting Thursday to brainstorm ways to get the community involved in combating domestic violence.

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