Domestic violence doesn’t discriminate. Victims and their abusers come from both genders, all ages, all races, all professions and all social and economic levels.

 


Domestic violence doesn’t discriminate. Victims and their abusers come from both genders, all ages, all races, all professions and all social and economic levels.


Domestic violence evolves from a wide variety of factors; and once it begins, domestic violence breeds domestic violence that can cycle through generations. Domestic violence wounds the heart, the mind and the body.


Domestic violence kills.


Domestic violence is happening throughout the nation, including right here in south central Oklahoma. It happens in cities and towns. It happens in rural areas. It could be happening in your neighborhood. It could even be happening in your home.


And if all those facts aren’t scary enough, local statistics show domestic violence is on the rise right here, right now:


* In 2007, the Family Shelter of Southern Oklahoma served 168 clients. From January through August 2008, the shelter has already served 193 clients and received 201 crisis line calls.


* Ardmore Police Department’s records show in 2007 officers responded to 251 domestic disturbance/domestic abuse calls. The 2008 number is already 242 . That’s 94 percent of the total responses just one year ago –– with three months left in the year.


* The Carter County Sheriff’s Department reports deputies responded in 2007 to a total of 97 calls. Year-to-date the number stands at 48.


Carter County Undersheriff Milton Anthony said some of the prime reasons domestic abuse occurs includes drugs, alcohol and finances.


Misty Butler, family shelter executive director, also points to the economy, but said the rise in numbers may also be a good sign.


“I believe there is an increase in our numbers due to our economy. When there is a financial strain on the household, domestic violence becomes more prevalent. I also believe our numbers continue to increase because we have an extensive advertising campaign this year and more victims are becoming aware of our services,” Butler said.


The family shelter not only provides a safe haven for women victimized by domestic abuse and their children, and conducts an aggressive awareness campaign, the agency is also taking a proactive role in other areas.


“We have trained over 100 law enforcement officers and 1,000 students in schools this year,” she said.


Unfortunately, the economic downturn not only spurs acts of domestic violence, it also hampers the shelter’s efforts in breaking the cycle. But recently, the shelter was the recipient of one of 150 grants awarded by the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation. Butler said the $20,000 grant will be used for “operating expenses” at the 24-hour shelter.


“This grant gives us much-needed cash and hope at the family shelter,” she said. “The problem of domestic violence in Ardmore isn’t going away, and neither is the need for funding. Programs to help battered women and their children require a lot of resources. We’re grateful that the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation is stepping up to the plate in helping us help families in our community.”


A myth shrouding domestic violence is that all victims are women. While the majority of victims are women, men are also be victimized. District Attorney Craig Ladd said his office takes domestic violence crimes “very seriously.”


Pointing to recent cases, Ladd said, “In the past couple of years, I have handled three first-degree murder cases which stemmed from domestic abuse in Carter County alone.

Recently there have been two deaths (Barbara George, Ardmore, and Connie Griffith, Healdton) which preliminary evidence suggests were the result of domestic violence. Both of these cases are still under investigation.


“And while Brandi Baird’s cause of death could not be determined by the medical examiner, the calloused and inhuman manner with which her boyfriend disposed of her body puts it in the ‘domestic abuse’ category in my opinion,” Ladd said.


Along with immediate help from law enforcement and the family shelter, victims can also find assistance at the district attorney’s office.


“In addition to simply prosecuting abusers, we have three victims’ advocates in our office who can help domestic violence victims,” Ladd said.


Services offered include acquiring an ADT home alarm system, acquiring a pendant with a button which automatically calls law enforcement in emergency situations, securing a protective order, keeping victims apprised of court dates and procedures, monitoring offenders’

compliance with court directives to attend anger management courses, providing information through pamphlets and brochures about how to leave a violent domestic relationship, making contact with counselors, and helping with resources such as utilities, food, and clothing.


“In one instance, our advocate even helped a victim obtain a new name, Social Security number, and with relocation,” Ladd said.


While the area is rich in resources to help victims of domestic violence, Anthony, Butler and Ladd said all help rests on the victim taking that first important step away of the domestic violence nightmare they’re living.


“If anyone is being victimized, there are ways we can help. But we need the victim to take that first step and call us. We can’t help without that call, and victims need to realize their situation isn’t going to get better, it will only get worse,” Anthony said.


October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. If you want to know what you can do to help someone who is a victim, call the Family Shelter at (580) 226-3750.