Story By: Ricardo Torres
The shooting death Tuesday of Cathy King at the hands of an ex-boyfriend continues to send shock waves through Milwaukee, as well raise concerns that coronavirus may be indirectly responsible for a dramatic rise in domestic violence deaths.
King, a pharmacy technician at the Walgreens store at 2727 W. North Ave., was shot and killed outside the story Tuesday afternoon.
On Saturday, community organizers, advocates and religious members, most of them men, spoke on a Zoom call about the need to reduce domestic violence and for men to play a bigger role in that reduction.
The virtual rally took place as Reggie Moore, injury and violence prevention director for the city’s Office of Violence Prevention, shared that there have been 23 confirmed cases of homicide from domestic violence so far this year compared to four at this point in 2019.
No one stated explicitly that the virus was part of the problem; there isn’t any data to back that up at the moment. But there was deep concern that with people not working and cooped up in homes, problems can fester.
With the safer-at-home order still in place, advocates say it is difficult to safely get the information about resources out to those who might need it.
Karin Tyler, family violence prevention manager for the Office of Violence Prevention, said during the pandemic, agencies need to rethink how they could provide services to people threatened by domestic violence. She said her office increasingly has been using social media or other digital means.
“If they don’t want to talk on the phone, I’ll text message them, whatever they’re comfortable with, I flow with them,” Tyler said.
Ray Mendoza, organizer with 414Life, which focuses on improving public health conditions to curb violence, said men need to hold each other accountable.
“The women in our life are supposed to be our foundation,” Mendoza said. “We have to learn as men to treat them according to who they are in our lives. You wouldn’t want anyone to put their hands on your mom, so why would you want to do that to somebody else’s mom? You wouldn’t want anybody to put their hands on your sister, so why would you want to do that to somebody else’s sister?”
Shawn Muhammad, co-executive director of the Asha Project, which focuses on domestic violence prevention, said the majority of its referrals for anger management and parenting classes come from the court system.
“I want to get men before that,” Muhammad said. “Even though Asha is right at the heart of the community, men don’t necessarily know that they could go there (for help).”
Muhammad said the Asha Project emphasizes stopping problems before they mushroom, “because we’re self-destructing right now.”
LaNelle Ramey, executive director of MENTOR Greater Milwaukee, said his organization is recruiting mentors for boys and young men, to help them process childhood trauma and be role models.
Vaun Mayes, community activist, said there are ways for public and private institutions to join forces to provide additional resources.
“We need that collective collaboration from more than just the people that we see here,” Mayes said, adding even property owners can help victims or those trying to get out of a bad situation. “There’s too much property that we could be using for safe housing, that we can take men and women to as safe spaces, where they need somewhere to go so we don’t have to keep being told ‘There’s no space at these shelters.’ ”
Natalie Hayden, co-chair of Milwaukee Commission on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, said agencies need to assess how they work with victims of domestic violence.
“It can be very overwhelming and intense if you can just look at the things that a victim of domestic violence is greeted with the moment she decides to leave,” Hayden said. “It’ll make her want to retreat.”