Photo by Sydney Sims Some domestic violence shelters seeing repercussions
Photo by Sydney Sims

Shelter workers in Arizona and Wisconsin report a growing rift between their organizations and law enforcement agencies.

Some domestic violence shelters have recently experienced repercussions after hanging signs that support the Black Lives Matter movement and pro-immigrant groups.

For example, The Huffington Post reports Katie Bement, the executive director at a domestic violence organization in Wisconsin named Embrace, decided to hang Black Lives Matter signs at its four locations to show allyship because she wanted to make sure people of color felt comfortable seeking their help. 

Bement reportedly received emails from local law enforcement who were “disturbed” by the signs. They saw them as anti-police. This took place precisely at the same time that Jacob Black was shot in the back by police, prompting mass protests in Wisconsin. 

The shelter, Embrace, then issued a formal statement on its Facebook page on Sept. 30, explaining why they supported Black Lives Matter:

“If we want to end intimate partner violence and sexual violence, we must grapple with our country’s long history of racism, slavery, genocide, and colonization. We hope you will join us in breaking the cycle of trauma created by racism and violence.”

HuffPost reports that Barron County then voted to strip Embrace of $25,000 in funding for 2021. At the same time, a majority of the 17 law enforcement agencies announced that they would no longer partner with Embrace. Now when domestic violence victims call police for help, officers may not refer the victims to Embrace.

Police have the ability to make the situation worse for victims of domestic abuse by choosing not to work with organizations that offer vital services when victims need them the most. In fact, victims of domestic violence cannot speak out on their behalf if there’s a case court in progress, making it yet another way that victims lose their voice while trying to defend themselves against their abusers. 

The Copper Courier learned of another incident in Arizona where a woman was working at a homeless youth shelter when an officer went in looking for someone, ignoring her request to wait outside. 

Upon seeing a flyer on a bulletin board for a pro-immigration march that was to take place in the community, he reportedly accused the shelter of “harboring” presumably undocumented immigrants. 

Also reported by HuffPost was yet another incident where the Idaho Chiefs of Police Association, the Idaho Sheriff’s Association, and the Prosecuting Attorneys Association all withdrew their support of the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence after they signed on to a letter suggesting there was a better solution to violence than more policing and prison time.

The letter read, in part: “The Coronavirus pandemic, unchecked and increased police violence, political and economic upheaval, and stay-at-home isolation have produced the ‘perfect storm.’” 

For those who would like to help Embrace, you can donate to a GoFundMe page that they set up to raise money. 

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month. If you or anyone you know needs help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.