A recent national report shows Oklahoma ranked third in the nation.

Sounds good, right?

Unfortunately, it's not good news.

The report, released by the Violence Policy Center, shows the Sooner state is third in the rate of women murdered by men, with a rate of 1.99 per 100,000.

Data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's unpublished Supplementary Homicide Report is used to compile the information. This year's report applies to 2011, the most recent year for which numbers are available, and is released to coincide with Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

What's the bottom line? Oklahoma is sadly staggering in the rising tide of domestic violence across the state. Stacey Mason, Family Shelter of Southern Oklahoma executive director, isn't surprised by the report. The cold, hard facts and the tragic results of domestic violence is something she sees daily. The Ardmore-based shelter serves Carter, Love, Johnson and Murray counties.

"But we also take referrals from all Oklahoma counties," Mason says.

So far in 2013, the FSSO numbers are:

n In Carter County — 116 adults have been served

n In Love County — 19 adult

n In Johnston County — 16 adults

n In Murray County — 9 adults

n A total of — 59 children have received services

n Face to face crisis interventions — 83

n Logged referral calls — 48

n Crisis phone calls — 202

Add to those numbers the untold victims who are suffering in silence. Those who are too afraid to seek the help they desperately need.

Need proof? Check out the daily police and sheriff's department logs printed in The Ardmoreite, which consistently carry reports of domestic disturbance and/or domestic abuse assault and battery.

Perhaps most surprising is that domestic violence is equal opportunity abuse. It isn't just happening in other people's families or to people you don't know, who don't live in your neighborhood, who don't go to your church and whose children don't go to school with yours. For teenagers, it doesn't just happen to students in other schools, other classes, in other clubs or on other sports teams.

"Domestic violence does not discriminate, it happens to people regardless of race, income level or education level," Mason reports.

This year, the FSSO is observing Domestic Violence Awareness Month through the theme "Light Up the Night," a focus intended to encourage victims to take that first, all-important step out of the darkness of abuse and into the freedom of the light. The theme is also geared at ramping up community awareness.

"We also want people to know where they can go for help if they are a victim or where to find help if they know someone who needs help," says FSSO manager Misty Butler.

And, yes, it's true it's not just women who become the victims of domestic violence.

"Men will also experience domestic violence, but at a lower level than women," Mason explains. "Domestic violence is not just physical abuse. The abuser can be controlling, sexually abusive, emotionally abusive, stalk the victims and use intimidation."

Here are some things you should know about domestic violence:

n Statistics show the average victim is likely to return to the abuser seven to 13 times before actually leaving for good

n Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior of power and control through intimidation and fear

n Causes of domestic violence include family dysfunction, inadequate communication skills, stress, chemical dependency, economic hardship, growing up with abusive parents and/or use of force or violence to solve other problems.

Victims often feel trapped or think no one will believe or help them. But those beliefs couldn't be farther from the truth. FSSO has a wide variety of programs and resources to assist victims and their children escape the nightmare they're living and start a new life with a bright future.

Those who need assistance right now, call the FSSO crisis line at (580) 226-6424. Those who would like information about helping someone they suspect is a victim should call FSSO at (580) 226-3750.