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AG Column: Generally Speaking - October 2023

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, an opportunity to acknowledge survivors and to serve as a voice for those who are being victimized. As Oklahoma is plagued by domestic violence more than almost any other state, it is crucial that we recognize its pervasiveness and what we can do to stop these horrific incidents.

In the 10 years that I served on the Tulsa Family Safety Center Board, one of the most striking things I learned about domestic violence is that it does not discriminate. Domestic violence affects people in all walks of life, regardless of age, social status, race, gender or political affiliation.

In the next five minutes, approximately 100 victims in the U.S. will be physically abused by an intimate partner. The number of these victims from Oklahoma will be disproportionately high. A 2023 report by the World Population Review indicates our state has the highest rate of domestic violence in the nation. While that study is based on data several years old, there is no disputing Oklahoma has a grave problem with domestic violence. Approximately 40 percent of Oklahoma women and 38 percent of men have been or currently are being abused physically. We also have the second-highest rate of the number of women killed by men.

The repercussions of domestic violence can span generations. No child should suffer the lifelong consequences of trauma from witnessing an episode of domestic abuse. In Oklahoma, however, children are present at 30 percent of all domestic homicide cases.

The best way to stop these tragic scenarios is to work together. In September, my office hosted the Partners for Change Conference, which focused on domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. State and tribal officials, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, victim advocates and allied professionals met to discuss effective strategies to enhance safety for victims and to end domestic violence.

In the Office of the Attorney General, the Victim Advocacy and Services Unit provides several programs to serve domestic violence victims. These include:

The Victim Information Notification Everyday program provides information about inmate custody status in county jails and state prisons. Victims can receive notification about booking and release dates at no cost.

The Address Confidentiality Program protects the physical address of victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, human trafficking and child abduction.

The SAFELINE 24/7 hotline provides victims with information about immediate action that should be taken, social services and legal remedies. The hotline is toll free at 1-800-522-SAFE (7233).

The Oklahoma Victim Advocates Academy is a week-long course of study for crime victim service providers new in their careers.

Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, Human Trafficking Program Certification ensures that 35 victim services agencies and programs are properly certified.

My office also oversees the Oklahoma Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board. This panel reviews domestic violence-related fatalities and works to prevent future deaths by identifying gaps in prevention and protection, and it recommends improvements in the state’s coordinated response to domestic violence.

Oklahomans cherish the family. For far too many, however, domestic violence can make family a source of pain and fear. The collaborative work taking place in Oklahoma is aligned to combat our epidemic of domestic violence. That work will, and must, continue. It is a matter of life and death.