'Abusers count on isolation:' 'Safer at Home' not always the case for domestic violence victims

MILWAUKEE -- With families quarantining at home due to the coronavirus, domestic violence advocates worry victims who found relief at school might be stuck at home with an abuser. Though they've changed a bit, resources remain available for those who need help.

Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik said officials at the Milwaukee Health Department were working with Milwaukee-area hotels to identify rooms where people in need could stay.

Sojourner Family Peace Center in Milwaukee

"In order for violence to happen, abusers count on isolation," said Carmen Pitre with the Sojourner Family Peace Center.

"Safer at Home" isn't always the case -- especially for those facing domestic violence.

Carmen Pitre

"For us, it's the worst thing that could happen, for survivors to be told to stay in place with the person who's hurting them," said Pitre.

Gov. Tony Evers on March extended the closure of all public and private K-12 schools indefinitely amid the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Evers' "Safer at Home" order was set to close nonessential businesses by 8 a.m. Wednesday, March 25 through April 24 -- with domestic violence victims' advocates concerned the closures could create the perfect storm.

That's why at the Sojourner Family Peace Center wanted to stress work at the shelter is continuing, with the shelter open, the hotline active, and restraining orders being filed, albeit online, with help from advocates.

"I think it's vital for us to say to people, 'We're still here. You're not alone. It's not your fault,'" said Pitre.

Sojourner Family Peace Center

Filing a temporary restraining order online

Sojourner officials outlined the process on their website -- and also offered information on contacting the police (you should always dial 911 for an emergency), finding an attorney, finding help with court cases, and learning more about crime victims' rights.

Below is some information from Sojourner's website on getting started filing a temporary restraining order online:

For assistance filing a restraining order, call Sojourner at 414-278-5079. Leave a message that includes your full name and a safe call-back number. An advocate will call back to assist you with filing a TRO online between the hours of 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday – Friday. The temporary restraining order documents will NOT be effective until reviewed and approved by a court commissioner.

If you already have filed a restraining order and have an upcoming hearing, report to the Milwaukee County Courthouse, Room 712 on the 7th Floor, at your scheduled time. (Refer to the information on the temporary restraining order paperwork received when you filed.)

For more information about the hearing and how to prepare, call Sojourner at 414-278-5079. Leave a message that includes your full name and a safe call-back number. An Advocate will call back between 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday – Friday to answer your questions about the hearing. Advocates will be on the phone during the hearing to support you and will talk with you after the hearing. If you do not appear to the hearing, the order will be dismissed.

The Women's Center in Waukesha

Angela Mancuso

Angela Mancuso with The Women's Center in Waukesha also spoke out Tuesday, worried about a spike in abuse.

"We're anticipating the more this goes on and the more isolation, the more calls that we'll start to see," said Mancuso.

Domestic violence victims' advocates asked that you keep an eye on your loved ones during this time.

"Pay attention to what's going on around you," said Mancuso.

"Now more than ever, people need to know there is hope," said Pitre.

The Women's Center

Related resources

The Women's Center hotline: 262-542-3828

Sojourner Family Peace Center hotline: 414-933-2722