Milwaukee County sees increased demand for restraining orders

NOW: Milwaukee County sees increased demand for restraining orders

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) --- More people are filing restraining orders in Milwaukee County, according to domestic violence advocates. The increase is putting an unprecedented demand on the system.

Requesting a restraining order from the court is a process that's not always easy and the pandemic has only made that process more challenging.

"Prior to COVID, we were based out of the courthouse. We operated there since 1985," said Carmen Pitre, Sojourner Family Peace Center's executive director.

Sojourner helps with filing restraining orders, regardless of the type of order needed.

"Our advocates go through intensive training around paperwork, what's the court looking for, how to prepare your testimony and then emotionally support you," said Pitre.

Circumstances range from neighbor-to-neighbor harassment, domestic disputes, to intimate partner violence. During the pandemic, the process to file went virtual.

"What we saw when COVID hit is the demand went up for access to the process," said Pitre.

Pitre also says more than half of the requests they receive for help are neighbor-to-neighbor disputes.

Sojourner helps with all types of filing, so to keep up with this increased demand, systems like virtual waitlists have been put into place. But more advocates and resources are needed to speed up the process for those in dangerous situations.

"We're taping a video for harassment, giving people access to the paperwork and helping them self-file. We are also looking at who we can partner with to help with neighbor-to-neighbor conflicts to take that workload off our staff," said Pitre.

Sojourner will soon be adding five more advocates for the next year, but it likely will only provide temporary relief for the demand.

The Asha Project also helps domestic violence survivors request restraining orders. Antonia Drew-Norton, director, says more community programs that provide this assistance are needed, especially in communities of color.

"I think that programs should be equipped and trained to file those retraining orders on behalf of the survivors and the families that they're working with," said Drew-Norton.

Advocates say restraining orders do not always solve the issue but should be used as a tool part of a safety plan.

"That gives them that paper trail that they may need somewhere down the road," said Drew-Norton.

For more information on the Asha Project, click here. 

For Sojourner Family Peace Center's information on restraining orders, click here

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