NEWS 9: OKLAHOMA RANKED HIGHEST IN US FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE FOR MEN & WOMEN
By: Haley Weger
Published: August 17, 2023
Oklahoma is now ranked highest in the nation for domestic violence for men and women, and third in the US for the number of women killed by their significant other.
A study from the YWCA reported over 43,000 domestic violence calls in Oklahoma in 2022, which resulted in almost 1,000 arrests.
At least 50 percent of Oklahomans will experience some kind of domestic violence in their lives. It’s important for the community to know there’s resources available, and people that want to help.
“You’re not alone,” said Hillary Burkholder, the CEO of Palomar Family Justice Center. “There are a number of people who can support you in whatever you need and wherever you are in your journey.”
YWCA, or Young Women’s Christian Association, provides a 24-hour domestic violence hotline, sexual assault hotline and State Safeline. They also have an emergency shelter for women and children in Oklahoma County, along with a domestic violence victim assistance program.
The program helps victims file protection orders with police and create a safety plan.
YWCA also houses the Palomar Family Justice Center, which can provide legal services, employment assistance, medical resources and more.
“We’re able to connect them to resources and to keep them safe,” said Burkholder.
As part of a MAPS4 project, Oklahoma City is investing almost $40 million in a permanent location for Palomar, that’s expected to open in 2025.
“It is really a core pillar of public safety for our community,” said Burkholder.
Palomar worked with more than 5,000 people last year, and they’ve already served 4,000 this year, with four months left in the year.
“Holding offenders accountable are key pieces in moving towards a community free of violence,” said Burkholder.
Holding offenders accountable is also the goal of Representative Toni Hasenbeck.
“The idea of a woman not having a voice is a little bit unsettling to me,” said Rep. Hasenbeck.
Hasenbeck has worked on legislation throughout her career that is aimed at helping victims of domestic violence. One of her first moves was helping pass a bill that classified strangling your spouse as a violent crime.
“Up to 2019, that wasn’t a violent crime in the state of Oklahoma, if you choked your spouse to death. That was just considered a domestic incident between a man and a woman, and I was pretty shocked by that,” said Rep. Hasenbeck.
From there, Rep. Hasenbeck worked on the Domestic Violence Survivorship Act. The bill will allow a judge to limit sentences to ten years in prison if they determine the person being sentenced is a survivor of domestic violence within one year prior to or on the date of the offense.
“Which would protect a woman or a man inside their home for defending themselves in their home against a domestic partner,” said Rep. Hasenbeck. “Because if it’s your domestic partner and you’re a woman in the state of Oklahoma, the chances of you going to prison for a long, long time are very high.”
Rep. Hasenbeck explains women have a higher chance of serving prison time for killing an abusive spouse, compared to killing an intruder.
“It gets pretty frustrating when you see someone who has done everything legally, and still a man walks through a protective order that is really hard,” said Rep. Hasenbeck.
She’s hoping to get that bill passed next session and says she will continue working on legislation to ensure victims have a voice.
“It takes a lot of courage to go to the courthouse and file a protective order against someone that you love, that lives in your home, that you potentially have children,” said Rep. Hasenbeck.
“If someone has been strangled by a partner, they have 750 percent more likelihood of being murdered by that partner,” said Burkholder.
“Without intervention, 78% of kids that are abused will go on to use violence in their relationships,” said Burkholder.
Representative Ross Ford is also conducting an interim study this year where he plans to address the generational impact of domestic violence, and find better ways to assist victims.
The date for that study has not been set yet.
What are some resources for Domestic Violence victims in Oklahoma?
The Oklahoma Domestic Violence hotline, (800) 522-SAFE (7233), and the 24-hour Safeline 1-800-522-SAFE (7233), provide assistance with safety planning, crisis intervention, emergency shelter and advocacy to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking. The Abuse Hotline 1-800-522-3511 and the Elder Abuse Hotline 1-800-522-3511 also provide resources for escaping abusive situations.
For the full list of Oklahoma Domestic Violence resources, click here.
What are some National resources for Domestic Violence?
The National Domestic Violence Hotline (800) 799-7233 and the National Dating Abuse Helpline (866) 331-9474 for those in abusive situations or relationships. The Rape Abuse Incest National Network (800) 656-4673 also helps in cases of rape or incest.
The StrongHearts Native Helpline (844) 762-8483 helps culturally-specific helpline for Native Americans impacted by domestic, dating and sexual violence.
The National Child Abuse Hotline/Childhelp (800) 422-4453) is for any child who is being abused or neglected. The National Center for Elder Abuse 1-855-500-3537 will help with elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
For the full list of National Domestic Violence resources, click here.