Advocates Say Childhood Trauma, System Gaps Push up Domestic Violence Rates in Oklahoma

Nov 13, 2019

Credit Ashley L. Gardner / U.S. Air Force

Nearly 50% of women and 40% of men in Oklahoma have experienced intimate partner violence during their lives, and a Tulsa lawmaker wants to reduce those rates.

State Rep. Denise Brewer’s interim study on domestic violence was held Wednesday. One witness said Oklahoma’s high rates of childhood trauma may contribute to its high rates of sexual and domestic violence.

Advocacy group Yes All Daughters founder Stacey Wright said Oklahoma kids chronically stressed by abuse, neglect and poverty in their formative years are becoming adolescents with higher rates of dating and sexual violence than their peers across the U.S., leading to some sobering statistics.

"The percentage of completed rapes disproportionately affects girls under 18, and about one-third of domestic homicide victims are under the age of 21, whether their murderer was a dating partner or a family member," Wright said.

Wright said lawmakers had a chance last year and this year to make a difference with youths by passing Lauren’s Law, a bill requiring schools to teach kids about consent, abuse and healthy relationships.

Wright said this year, they balked at the cost of tracking the bill’s implementation.

"Its fiscal impact would have been 2 cents per K–12 student in Oklahoma. Two pennies. And parents overwhelmingly want their kids to have these types of lessons in the classroom," Wright said.

Advocates for victims of domestic violence also told lawmakers there are some glaring problems with the current system. Donna Matthews with Domestic Violence Intervention Services said a judge recently told one of their clients she had to pay fees for a protective order she dropped before she could get a new one, a practice not supported by state law.

"So, she was ordered to pay it or not get the [protective order]. So, we — within a few days, we got into our client assistance funds and were able to help her with that. Not every agency in this state would be able to do that. I think it was around $200 or so, and she didn’t have it," Matthews said.

Matthews said there’s also an ongoing problem with protective orders not being recognized outside the county that issued them.