Bridging the Financial Gap to Support Victims of Domestic Violence and End the Cycle of Abuse

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August 26, 2015

In Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, only one-third of the domestic violence incidents are reported to law enforcement.1 The city's population of nearly one million people is served by only two domestic violence shelters: Milwaukee Women’s Center and Sojourner Family Peace Center. Budget cuts in 2013 and 2014 put strain on essential services that exist as lifelines and safe havens for women and children fleeing violence in their lives.

These centers’ expertise, commitment to providing emergency shelter, and comprehensive support services for underserved and disadvantaged women and children led the MAXIMUS Foundation to award the Milwaukee Women’s Center and Sojourner Family Peace Center grants to support their Children’s Center services, reducing the financial gap.

Former Wisconsin Representative Mark Green once said, “If the numbers we see in domestic violence were applied to terrorism or gang violence, the entire country would be up in arms, and it would be the lead story on the news every night." Domestic violence remains a serious issue requiring courage, inner strength and self-esteem to survive, let alone overcome. In most cases, domestic violence leaves the deepest scars on its youngest victims.

The National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV) found that more than one in four children have been exposed to family violence in their lifetimes. As a result, children exposed to domestic violence feel torn because both the victim and the aggressor are the adults who are responsible for caring for them. Domestic violence disrupts their feeling of safety and security, and as a result has a dramatic impact on a child’s physical, mental and emotional development, preventing children from achieving developmental milestones that are critical to healthy development. More tragically, domestic violence breeds a generational cycle of abuse.

The Milwaukee Women’s Center offers emergency shelter and comprehensive support services to women and children whose lives have been impacted by domestic violence, addiction, mental health issues and poverty. To ensure that critical domestic violence services could continue in Milwaukee County, the Milwaukee Women’s Center became a division of Community Advocates in 2007. Joining a human services agency that offers a full suite of wraparound basic needs programs and services enabled the Center to further expand its offerings, helping transition women and their children from temporary shelter to affordable and safe housing, putting them back on the road to independence. 

The Sojourner Family Peace Center is the largest nonprofit provider of domestic violence prevention and intervention services in the state of Wisconsin, serving more than 9,500 clients each year. The Center’s use of the Family Justice Center model transforms its community’s response to family violence, ultimately making Milwaukee and its surrounding areas a healthier, safer, more peaceful place to live. This model is a best practice for delivering care to families affected by domestic violence. The key to its success is the co-location of multidisciplinary professionals focused on advocating for victims’ safety and quality of life, surrounding the victim with the support and resources they need at a critical time.

The children’s programs at both nonprofits help children learn that domestic violence is never their fault, how to keep themselves safe, and how to resolve conflict peacefully in their own relationships. Through the programs, child advocates are able to provide necessary services to the children, many of whom come from the poorest neighborhoods.

Although addressing the needs of these littlest victims of domestic violence is key to breaking the cycle of generational violence, funding cuts have brought many challenges to keeping these programs fully operational. As a result, funding from grants like the MAXIMUS Foundation becomes integral for the future of these programs.

By supporting these children’s programs and their nonprofit organizations, we help ensure that young children are capable of understanding the dynamics of violence and learning how not to repeat the violence they’ve witnessed in their own relationships.

1Domestic Abuse Incident Report, Wisconsin Department of Justice, Office of Crime Victim Services, December 2012

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