THE JOURNAL RECORD: Partnership to address domestic violence in Oklahoma

By: Journal Record Staff

Published: October 5, 2023

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Victims of domestic violence in Oklahoma as well as children and others affected by it may benefit from a new partnership involving the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and Palomar.

Palomar identifies as a “family justice center” established to provide comprehensive support services for people caught up in domestic violence.

Help is needed.

According to the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office, the state has been ranked second in the nation for women killed in single victim-single offender incidents. The need for collaborative efforts between agencies also is backed by data from the 2021 Oklahoma Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board’s annual report, which showed:

• Total fatalities: 138.

• 119 victims and 19 perpetrator deaths.

• 46 victims of intimate partner homicide, with 69.5% being female.

• 52 victims killed by family members, including 14 children.

• Disproportionate effect on Black and Native American communities, primarily women.

• Firearms identified as the cause of 68.8% of domestic violence-related fatalities.

“Oklahoma’s high rate of domestic violence is unconscionable and intolerable,” AG Gentner Drummond said. “While my office and I are committed to reducing incidents of domestic violence, it is also critical that organizations like Oklahoma City’s Palomar and Tulsa’s Family Safety Center are making a positive and enduring difference for survivors. Only by all of us working together can we protect victims and their families.”

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, it’s estimated that more than 10 million adults in the United States experience domestic violence annually. Domestic violence is prevalent in every community, and it affects all kinds of people regardless of age, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or nationality. Physical violence often is accompanied by emotional abuse, threats, sexual intimidation and assault, manipulative behavior and other methods of control and dominance.

National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and organizations that advocate especially on behalf of victims and children aim to spread awareness about programs and resources to help those in need.

“By offering wraparound services across Oklahoma and a network of caring professionals, we aim to break the cycle of abuse and empower survivors on their path to healing,” ODMHSAS Commissioner Carrie Slatton-Hodges said. “Our partnership with Palomar marks a significant step in providing crucial support to those affected.”

Added Tricia Everest, who chairs the Palomar board of directors: “We are dedicated to creating a safe haven for survivors, where they can access all the services they need under one roof. Our partnership with ODMHSAS strengthens our collective ability to offer comprehensive assistance, giving survivors the hope and resources they deserve.”

In times of crisis, victims can contact the Oklahoma Safe Line at 1-800-522-SAFE (7233) to connect with a trained advocate. They can also dial 911 if they face immediate danger. Additionally, survivors of intimate partner violence are encouraged to utilize 988, Oklahoma’s Mental Health Lifeline, which helps not only in the immediate aftermath but also assists those seeking help in the years that follow. This invaluable resource is free and confidential, available to all Oklahomans 24/7 via phone or text.

The Victim Services Unit of the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office supports crime victims and their families by providing information, connection to local services and direct assistance throughout the criminal process.

Domestic abuse is not limited to physical violence; it encompasses controlling, coercive, threatening, or degrading behavior, including sexual violence, emotional/mental abuse, economic abuse, sexual abuse/coercion, and digital abuse.