The marchers walked silently for a mile through the blocks of downtown Milwaukee.
They held flags, each one carrying the story of someone whose life ended because of domestic violence.
They passed out cards to onlookers, explaining their mission of memorializing victims and their commitment to ending domestic abuse.
The Zonta Club of Milwaukee’s sixth annual walk, “Zonta Says NO to Violence Against Women,” came at the start of Domestic Violence Awareness Month and less than two weeks after a report found Wisconsin experienced a record number of domestic violence-related homicides in 2020.
Fifty-eight people were killed in acts of domestic violence last year, according to the annual report from End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin.
In addition, eight perpetrators died by suicide and two others were killed by responding law enforcement, for a total of 68 people dying in domestic violence incidents, the report found.
That’s about one death every five days.
Behind every number are a host of loved ones left to grieve — people like Carrie Scott-Haney. Her daughter, Audrey “TuTu” Scott, went missing in 2017 from a downtown bar and was murdered by her ex-boyfriend.
Scott-Haney came to Monday’s walk to push for change. She has started a petition to create a “Purple Alert” system for adult women who go missing and have previously been victims of domestic violence.
“There’s so many people that go missing and when their remains are found it’s never determined if it’s domestic abuse, but their families know” that it was, she said.
Scott-Haney was among the speakers at City Hall, where the nearly 50 marchers gathered after the walk sponsored by Zonta, a women’s service organization seeking to end gender-based violence and empower women.
Karin Tyler with the city’s Office of Violence Prevention shared some of her personal experiences with domestic abuse.
“I am a survivor,” she said, her voice echoing in the City Hall rotunda.
She had been strangled and threatened with a gun, and she focused on keeping her children safe, she said.
“It infuriates me when I hear people say ‘Why did she stay?'” she said, describing how abusers can return again and again, and how women run into barriers when trying to leave.
And men have to be part of the effort to end domestic abuse, said Shawn Muhammad, director of The Asha Project, which serves African American women in Milwaukee.
“In order for us to eradicate intimate partner violence it will take all of us, and if the sisters could do it on their own, it would be eradicated already,” he said.
Deaths from domestic violence are the tip of the iceberg, said Carmen Pitre, executive director of Sojourner Family Peace Center.
“What it sits on is thousands of other situations right here in Milwaukee, where people are living in terror, who are suffering and who are living in isolation,” she said.
She called on those gathered to reflect on the stories they had carried. She shared how, at one point in the walk, a gust of wind tore her flag from her hands and sent it tumbling down the block.
She chased after it, thinking of the 60-year-old woman honored on it, a woman only a year older than her.
“She was lost once, she doesn’t need to be lost again,” Pitre said.