Oklahoma Remains Top State For Domestic Violence

by Jensen McKey

Every minute in the United States, 20 people are physically assaulted by an intimate partner. 

One in every four women and one out of every nine men in the country are victims of sexual assault, physical violence or partner stalking according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence latest reports.

Domestic violence, according to the law, is the willful intimidation of physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, threats, economic, and emotional/psychological abuse.

In 2020 the National Domestic Violence Hotline reported more than 21,300 calls a day. 

Oklahoma is often in the top ten states with the highest rates of domestic violence. In addition, the state also comes in at the top of the list for the highest number of women killed by men.

“It has to be a community effort, that you just can’t have a bunch of professionals that want to have a forensic program or you know, domestic violence program… it’s not gonna go anywhere if you don’t have your prosecutors educated on the need,” Terry Gillespie, a retired Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE), said.

Domestic Violence Nurse Examiners, or DVNE, and SANE experts have to spend 40 hours of classroom time along with 40 hours of clinical observations in order to receive the specialized training.

The training covers topics ranging from rape theory to drug-facilitated sexual assault, pattern injuries and the different injures a SANE or DVNE might see on the job. The type of injuries may depend on the age of the victim.

“Most children have acute injuries and are victims of chronic abuse. By the time the child discloses that something is happening, the abuse would have been going on for several years, so there would be no injuries,” Gillespie said.

Gillespie said while there are similarities between SANE and DVNE examinations, there are also key differences.

“Over 50% of domestic violence cases also have a sexual assault component within the relationship,” Gillespie said.

Often sexual assault and domestic violence go hand in hand. For example, if a woman is seeing a SANE nurse and discloses the domestic violence, she then would be transferred over to a domestic violence expert. That nurse would be better equipped to help her through the experience.

There is never a “good” day on the job for a SANE or DVNE, but some events or even seasons can be worse than others.

“I just dreaded certain concert events and things like that in the summertime. You know, because there’s gonna be lots of fights and, you know, and that’s just gonna lead to sexual assault,” Gillespie said.

Another dreaded time of the year for people who deal with the effects of domestic violence and sexual assualt is the Superbowl.

Gillespie also said the football championship is one of the busier days of the year for domestic violence and sexual assault nurses. This is because the games are often paired with people drinking at parties which can raise tensions and lead to violence.

The holidays are another dangerous time for domestic violence. Stress from holiday shopping and finances along with abusers with more access to alcohol or other drugs during time off work create opportunity for violence. 

Increased isolation can make domestic violence worse. The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers tips to people who are being abused, including ways to talk or chat about their situation. The site also offers advice on clearing internet search history and finding ways to safely communicate with domestic violence professionals.

You can learn more, or get help, by visiting the site, calling 1.800.799.7233 or by texting “start” to 88788.

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