Many domestic violence shelters in Wisconsin are now publicizing their locations, reflecting a shift in the culture of domestic violence intervention.
According to Carmen Petrie, executive director of Milwaukee's Sojourner Truth House, the trend of publicizing such information has been growing for the past 10 or 15 years. She said domestic violence shelters are moving from undisclosed locations in residential neighborhoods to high-profile, public centers.
“I think people are more aware today of how critical this issue is,” said Petrie. “So the shelters becoming public, I believe, is part of that evolving awareness that people have in the community.”
The Sojourner Truth House is breaking ground on a new, a larger facility in September. It's moving from a decades-old building in an undisclosed location to a major intersection in Milwaukee.
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Many shelters, built decades ago, were tucked into quiet neighborhoods. Founders believed that these undisclosed, nondescript locations made it more difficult for abusers to track down victims.
But Shannon Barry, executive director of Domestic Abuse Intervention Services in Madison, said that public-facing shelters may actually promote safety, not compromise it.
“If you're familiar with domestic violence, you'll know that many batterers and assailants don't want to be known for who they are and what they're doing,” Barry said. “Coming to a very public facility admits a level of culpability if you're seeking out your partner at a facility like ours.”
Domestic Abuse Intervention Services will transition from a small, undisclosed facility to a larger, public shelter later this month.