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Proposed law to help domestic abuse survivors boosted by Republican leader

Sue Ogrocki

Advocates for victims of domestic violence are championing a potential law they say could make a big difference, and a top state Republican has expressed support.

Senate Bill 1470 would require courts to consider evidence of abuse when sentencing people who kill their abusers. Leslie Briggs, legal director at the Oklahoma Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, says the law is necessary when considering Oklahoma’s abysmal record around domestic violence.

“We need to be able to protect people who find themselves criminalized as a result of the abuse they’ve suffered because it’s so rampant in this state,” said Briggs.

Using data from 2020, nonprofit Violence Policy Center puts Oklahoma at second in the nation for the number of women murdered by men.

Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat is a sponsor of the bill.

“We already have laws that protect victims who retaliate to defend themselves in self-defense situations. Victims of domestic violence are individuals who have sometimes suffered for years at the hands of an abuser. We must protect their rights to self-defense, just as we would if someone were trying to use deadly force while breaking into a home," Treat said in a statement to Public Radio Tulsa.

The law, also known as the Oklahoma Survivors' Act, would be retroactive. People already in prison would be allowed to submit evidence to a court that may lessen their sentences. Briggs emphasized that retroactivity is critical.

“It is the only way to serve justice in a state that has forgotten these folks for too long,” said Briggs.

Before joining Public Radio Tulsa, Elizabeth Caldwell was a freelance reporter and a teacher. She holds a master's from Hollins University. Her audio work has appeared at KCRW, CBC's The World This Weekend, and The Missouri Review. She is a south Florida native.