Domestic violence affects families of every race, of every income level, in every neighborhood across the city. Thankfully, there are resources in place to help those affected by domestic violence.
Emily Prosser is a Domestic Violence Advocate for Milwaukee’s Third District. She has been working with domestic violence victims for the past seven years, and has spent the past two years as an advocate with the Sojourner Family Peace Center. Last week, she agreed to speak with Near West Side Partners to discuss what she does as a D3 Domestic Violence Advocate and how COVID-19 has impacted her area of work.
Sojourner Family Peace Center is located on the corner of W. Walnut Street and N. 6th Street.
Under normal circumstances, Emily begins her day by picking up domestic violence police reports from the MPD District 3 office. She reads the files, obtains the victim’s information, and then follows up with the survivors by phone. She explained that first and foremost, she wants to make sure the victims are safe. After that, she checks to see if they have a safe place to stay, if their abuser has access to their home, and if crisis intervention is needed, such as counseling or other resources.
Emily described how she can also help victims navigate the legal system. To hear more about how she does that, click the audio link below.
If victims cannot be reached by telephone, Emily and two MPD officers will then do a home visit to make sure the victim is safe and that things are not escalating in the home.
Once the COVID-19 pandemic began, Sojourner Family Peace Center anticipated the virus would pose some specific risks for survivors of domestic violence. “When [survivors] are asked to stay home,” Emily explained, “their homes are not a safe place for them. The only reprieve they get is when they can go to work or when their abuser can go to work or get out of the house for some reason.” As is the reality for many Milwaukeeans, thousands of people across the country are facing unemployment and furlough due to the pandemic, which means leaving the home for work is not an option.
Above: YouTube video “Home is not always a safe place” from SojournerMKE
However, Sojourner has remained open and running throughout the entire pandemic that began in mid-March, and Domestic Violence Advocates have altered how they conducted their work so that they can still support survivors. For example, Emily said that Advocates have been conducting virtual support groups and have been doing a lot more follow-up over the phone. She mentioned that Sojourner did not want to stop these vital services because of COVID-19 because they are incredibly important for survivors.
As always, Sojourner’s 24/7 hour telephone hotline is available by calling 414-933-2722 and they can connect you with your district advocate or the office of violence prevention. The Sojourner Truth House also offers an emergency shelter, located on the corner of W. Walnut Street and N. 6th Street.
Emily discussed how Domestic Violence Advocates are still being sure to follow best practices and do all they can with the resources they have right now. For example, she noted how Sojourner does not use a crisis text line. While texting may seem like a quick and easy form of communication, especially when in-person communication is difficult to conduct mid-pandemic, it is not secure and not a best practice to ensure the safety of survivors.
She explained how her and her coworkers have been sure to stay connected to each other as well because it can be easy to feel disconnected when not going to the office each day. To hear more about how Emily’s team is staying connected during COVID-19, click the audio link below.
Emily also mentioned other organizations that are doing great work to help community members during this difficult time, such as the ASHA Project, a domestic violence and sex trafficking prevention program, and Safe and Sound, a corporation that aims to reduce crime in high-crime, low-income neighborhoods through strong public-private partnerships. To hear Emily talk more about Safe and Sound, click the link below.
In addition to COVID-19, I asked Emily if the recent events of civil unrest have impacted her work at all; she shared that during the week with the highest peak of civil unrest there was a slight dip in the domestic violence police reports that were filed. She speculates that the dip in reports may have been due to officers being pulled in so many different directions during that week– for example, she regularly works with a team of MPD officers, but during the two week periods where the civil unrest and protests were at their peak, she did not see those officers at all.
However, she noted the reports are now back up to their normal levels. Additionally, she shared that she has not seen any greater distrust in police when she talks to survivors of domestic violence. Survivors are not hesitant or distrusting to the point where they are not calling the police to report abuse as an effect of the civil unrest.
Finally, I asked Emily if she has any advice or guidance for individuals interested in doing work in the line of domestic violence. She had two main pieces of advice:
First, she recommends looking for volunteer or internship opportunities in this line of work. She said it is “rewarding but taxing” and people often do not realize that you never really know what you are going to encounter on a daily basis. However, gaining experience through volunteering or interning can help you obtain a good idea.
To learn more about volunteering at Sojourner Family Peace Center, click here.
Above: YouTube video “Sojourner volunteer spotlight: Gail” from SojournerMKE
Second, she thinks any sort of degree in a social service would lend itself very valuable to this type of work. Emily herself has a Masters Degree in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, but said many of her coworkers have degrees in social work. All of these degrees can help people gain an awareness of how to work with people and understand the trauma they are going through, as well as the healing process.
Thank you very much to Emily Prosser for speaking with Near West Side Partners about this very important and relevant issue. Near West Side Partners and the NWS CPU team remain dedicated to helping survivors of domestic violence and we are grateful to work with such dedicated advocates like Emily. If you are in need of help and it is an emergency, please contact 911. You can also reach out to Sojourner Family Peace Center’s 24 hour hotline number at 414-933-2722 or visit their website for more information here. If you would like to reach Emily directly, her phone number is 414-935-3983 and her email is EmilyP@FamilyPeaceCenter.org.