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Listen MKE is an initiative created by WUWM, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee PBS and the Milwaukee Public Library to help Milwaukee's north side residents get the information they want and need.

Listen MKE: Exploring Why Domestic Abuse Is On The Rise Since The Pandemic Began

Screenshot / WUWM
A screenshot from the Facebook Live discussion of domestic abuse and the fight to end it. Guests include Carmen Pitre (top right), Steve Thomas (bottom left), LaVerne Badger (bottom middle), and Natalie Hayden (bottom right).

WUWM is partnering with the Milwaukee Journal SentinelMilwaukee PBS and the Milwaukee Public Libraryon an initiative we call Listen MKE. Its goal: help Milwaukee’s north side residents get the information they want and need. More specifically, we want to better understand what's most important to people who live in these Milwaukee neighborhoods and help fill information gaps.

The latest Listen MKE was co-hosted by WUWM’s LaToya Dennis and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist James Causey. The discussion is centered around domestic violence and how the coronavirus pandemic is making it harder to fight against.

Watch the full Listen MKE below.

“We’re in a crisis within a crisis,” says Carmen Pitre, executive director of the Sojourner Family Peace Center. “We know that COVID has created isolation. We know that victims are reluctant to come forward, they’re afraid about their economic future, they don’t know what they’re going to do around childcare. ... It’s really forced victims into a position where they are choosing to stay or pressing pause on leaving because they are afraid to come forward, they’re afraid they may get COVID.”

Since the pandemic began, rates of domestic abuse have risen 100%. This rise, LaVerne Badger of ExPOSED the Podcast says, comes as domestic abuse is becoming a topic that communities are actually willing to talk about.

“In the last five years, I have seen the most communication that I have ever seen around domestic abuse,” says Badger. “Being able to communicate what is going on with domestic abuse and trying to figure it out and educate those, I think that is definitely one of the best steps in ending domestic abuse.”

>>For Domestic Abuse Victims, Safer-At-Home Order Can Mean Trapped At Home

Part of the goal of ExPOSED the Podcast is to have those conversations around domestic abuse to let victims know it’s OK and they are not alone.

“We normalize having a conversation, a difficult conversation at that, because domestic violence can be challenging and difficult. And it’s not just intimate partners, it can be within the family,” says Natalie Hayden of ExPOSED the Podcast.

It is not just about getting victims the support they need but finding ways to change the behavior of abusers to break the cycle of violence. Steve Thomas is a former abuser who now leads efforts to get male abusers to change their ways through a batterers intervention program.

“What’s happening with a lot of men, is they need to get engaged with some type of treatment to help them unlearn those behaviors they were taught in their male socialization and also some treatment that is going to help them deal with their insecurities, issues around pride and ego, sexuality, mental health, and unresolved trauma,” says Thomas.

Domestic abuse is not just an issue facing women. But men are much less likely to report abuse and many feel that because of their gender role, they should be able to handle the abuse.

“Society and other men do not give them permission to be vulnerable that way, so we have to figure out that way. And I am all for it and in support of how we move forward to make sure men understand that we support them as well but also having other men support them,” says Badger.

Domestic abuse can happen to anyone. If you or someone you know is facing domestic abuse, please use these resources:

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.
From 2020 to 2021, Jack was WUWM's digital intern and then digital producer.
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