MILWAUKEE — When the 'Safer at home' order first came along, attention turned to those dealing with domestic violence. Isolation brought on by the pandemic was a big concern. It still is.
About a year into the pandemic, TMJ4 News followed up with Sojourner's Family Peace Center.
"I would say things have not gotten better. They've been consistently hard throughout the pandemic," said Carmen Pitre, CEO of Sojourner Family Peace Center.
"The crisis of violence in our homes and in relationships in Milwaukee is still raging and going strong," Pitre continued.
Pitre said even before COVID-19, some stayed in an abusive home for financial reasons, but the pandemic has inflamed that feeling of being trapped.
"So, now the future is even more uncertain and so leaving is even less of an option," she said.
Sojourner's data from 2020 shows it served 21% more clients (including women, children, men) in its emergency shelter compared to 2019.
The non-profit also reports it served 8% more individuals from referrals from police districts in Milwaukee.
And, Sojourner reports there were 50 domestic violence-related homicides in 2020. That's up by 64% from 2019.
Pitre wants anyone who doesn't feel safe at home to know leaving is still possible during COVID-19.
Natalie Hayden, a domestic violence survivor, can attest to the help that's out there. Hayden says four years ago she arrived at the doorsteps of Sojourner with her daughter.
"Realizing that I was at rock bottom and all I had was the hope to see the light at the end of the tunnel," Hayden said.
Hayden encourages anyone struggling to come up with a plan to get help.
"Continue to reach out to trusted friends and neighbors," Hayden said.
"Broaden your support system. See who's home you can stay at. Many people are willing to support you in that way," she continued.
Sojourner is stepping up its support during the pandemic too. The non-profit launched a phone line for those needing legal help filing a court order electronically. It also created more ways for people to reach out.
"We're adding texting to our hotline that will be coming in about a month or so because we know not everyone is free to make a phone call," Pitre said.
"Oftentimes, survivors just want to be seen and heard and definitely survivors are due that process," Hayden said.
If you are being abused, call Sojourner's 24-hour domestic violence hotline at (414) 933-2722.
If you need legal help with filing a temporary restraining order online, call Sojourner's Restraining Order Office directly dial (414) 278-5079. Callers should leave a message that includes their full name and a safe call-back number. An advocate will call you back between 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday - Friday.
Click here for more information about restraining orders and the legal assistance and support Sojourner provides