Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

Former Cop Helps Domestic Violence Victims

Rhondi Love is liaison between police and victims staying at Sojourner Center.

By , Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service - Apr 22nd, 2016 01:53 pm

As a police officer for 18 months in Brookfield, Rhondi Love hated having to move from call to call instead of helping people who had suffered from crime and distress.

Love, 25, now works with the Milwaukee Police Department and Sojourner Family Peace Center to help domestic violence victims in District 5 on the city’s North Side.

“My number one priority when I get to work at 8 a.m. is to help people through a traumatic event and make sure they’re safe,” said Love, who grew up on the North Side and works out of an office at Sojourner, 619 W. Walnut St.

The nonprofit center helps transform lives of people affected by domestic violence.

Hector Hernandez, Sojourner’s director of advocacy programs, said Love is a great asset to the victims because of her police background.

“She has a unique skill set,” Hernandez said. “She gets the other side of it and has a better understanding of the officers she works with.”

Love said she and the officers work together responding to calls and meeting with victims of high-risk domestic violence cases.

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Stout, Love went to work at Safe & Sound, a nonprofit agency at 801 W. Michigan St., where she learned important advocacy skills.

“You have to be able to listen to your victims and your clients, and really understand what they’re going through,” she said.

Love left Safe & Sound to become a police officer, but decided to change direction after realizing police work didn’t allow her to build relationships with the victims.

“I hated that I was moving so quickly from victim to victim,” she said.

However, Love said the Brookfield’s academy’s military-like approach appealed to her sense of purpose. “Just being somewhere where it’s ‘Yes sir!’ and ‘Yes ma’am!” … was different, but it was exciting.”

At Sojourner, Love enjoys helping people work toward recovery. She attends court hearings with victims and helps them deal with lawyers and legal bills. She also attempts to find shelter for them, whether at the center or somewhere else, and offers advice to help them escape dangerous situations.

Lily Xiong-Sayaovong, Love’s supervisor, said her enthusiasm and passion have helped her excel at Sojourner.

“She is very enthusiastic about the work that she does within the community,” Xiong-Sayaovong said. “She’s well respected at the district.”

Love said the most difficult aspect of her job is avoiding telling victims what to do. She wants them to be safe. She wants their children to be safe. She wants them to leave the abuser and the circumstances keeping them in peril.

“You want a person to move on from a situation they’re not ready to move on from.” Love realizes, however, that not every person she deals with is able to do so.

“I’m working with people when they’re at their lowest moments. Maybe she’s not ready to leave that relationship. So [it’s] just really remembering it’s not my situation and I’m here to advocate for her.”

This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

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