#013 Precious Lives: Provide Love Now to Avoid Lock­up Later

Apr 8, 2015

The Sojourner Family Peace Center in Milwaukee is working to become a national leader in helping domestic violence victims.

"You can either love those kids when they are 7, 8, 9, 10 or you can wait and lock them up when they are 15, 16 or 17." - National Family Justice Center Alliance's Casey Gwinn

The new facility will be the largest of its kind in the country - housing a variety of organizations that support victims of domestic violence and their families.

As the work progresses at the facility at 6th and Walnut, Lake Effect's Mitch Teich spoke with Casey Gwinn, President of the National Family Justice Center Alliance, and  Sojourner's executive director Carmen Pitre about what makes Sojourner's approach distinctive.

"Across the United States and for decades, even in Wisconsin, victims have to go from place to place to place and tell their story over and over again...and the reality is that when victims have to navigate that maze, they give up," Gwinn said. "They go back to their abuser and the violence continues and children continue to be exposed to the trauma, and we fail at really breaking that cycle."

"When you can put everyone under one roof and get everyone to work together, it changes the world for victims and their kids. It sounds like a really simple, straightforward idea, but it is really hard to do," he said.

Gwinn emphasized the importance of having child abuse and domestic violence services under on roof. "In America, we raise our criminals at home," he said. "And the vast majority of those that we lockup...are coming out of homes with some mix of child abuse and domestic violence and/or drugs and alcohol."

He said that unmitigated childhood trauma is the great challenge of our generation. "When you don't deal with that trauma from childhood, you have profound implications for society."

Back in February, our Precious Lives series on kids and gun violence in Milwaukee covered the center's groundbreaking. It was both a physical and figurative one.