'What if home is not safe?' Milwaukee County provides resources for domestic violence during pandemic

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- As the fight to stop the spread of the coronavirus has kept many in their homes, those working to prevent domestic violence say they know home is not the safest place for everyone. 

“Domestic violence survivors need help now more than ever,” said Sojourner President and CEO Carmen Pitre in a press release.

“If someone threatens your life – even if they’ve never hurt you before – believe them. Reach out for help. We’re still open and available for safety planning, emergency shelter and support services – call our 24-hour hotline right now if someone has been abusive to you. If you don’t call us, please call someone.”

The Sojourner hotline is 414-933-2722. 

Sojourner also released a new public service announcement to raise awareness about domestic violence during the pandemic. 

 "We knew pre-COVID, we had a state of emergency. We had, before COVID, 13 domestic related homicides, now we're at 22 compared to four last year during this same time period," said Pitre, on a call with Milwaukee city and county leaders Tuesday, where they pushed people to the county's website, where a number of domestic violence resources are listed. 

The Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services launched a new portion of the "Stay Home, Save Lives" campaign at www.StayHomeMKE.com to include information about domestic violence resources. 

There will also be transit ads, billboards, and messages on social media about combating domestic violence. 

"People are still working on this issue and most of the partners committed to stopping domestic violence are doing counseling, connecting folks and helping navigate the system to make sure they can protect themselves, including finding shelter,"  said David Muhammed, Deputy Director, Mke Co. Dept. of Health and Human Services

The Women's Center in Waukesha says their 24-hour hotline has seen a 12 percent increase in calls over the past month, when compared to the same time last year. 

"Advocates are spending more time with each caller as the situations they are seeing are also increasingly complex and often highly lethal," a press release from The Women's Center said. 

Dispatchers in Waukesha County have reported 33.8 percent more calls about domestic violence incidents since the Safer at Home order took effect, compared to the same time last year, according to The Women's Center. 

The Women's Center 24-Hour Hotline is 262-542-3828 or toll-free 888-542-3828. 

"I just imagine people living on the edge and living in fear every second of every day right now," said Jennifer Moston, a domestic violence survivor. 

She said she knows what it's like to live in fear. 

"He would constantly threaten, 'You shut those kids up or I'm going to kill everybody in this house tonight and I actually believed it," she said. 

She wants people who may be experiencing domestic violence to know they're not alone and to reach out for help. 

"If you have a friend, family member, neighbor that you think is in a violent situation, even outside of this pandemic, just reach out to them let them know you're there for them, just check in on them."

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