Oklahoma State Senate
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105
February 26, 2016
From the desk of Sen. Rob Standridge
Historically, domestic abuse was not treated as a crime—communities and local law enforcement often looked the other way, viewing it as a private family matter. It has taken far too long, but slowly over the past few years, our state and our country have begun to recognize domestic abuse for what it is—a crime that destroys families. It shatters the trust, health and mental health of children and adults alike, and far too often it escalates to homicide.
Oklahoma is ranked third in the nation for women killed by men in domestic violence situations. One-third of all women murdered in our state are killed by their husbands. Forty-one percent of all homicides in Oklahoma are linked to domestic violence.
In a 2015 report, the Oklahoma Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board reviewed 223 intimate partner homicide cases that occurred between 1998 and 2014. The cases involved 224 perpetrators and resulted in the deaths of 259 victims. They ranked various factors that experts call red flags or “lethality risk factors” in each of those cases. The report found that in 47 percent of those cases, the perpetrator had made prior death threats against the victim. Sixty-three percent had a history of physical violence. In 74 percent of those cases, there was prior evidence of domestic abuse.
A few years ago, a law was passed that recognized how dangerous a pattern of physical abuse was and established strong penalties for those that met that definition. Currently the law requires that there be three instances of physical abuse in order to establish that pattern. If the definition is met, conviction carries a penalty of up to ten years in prison or up to $5,000 in fines, or both. That measure represented an important step in how Oklahoma dealt with the crime of domestic violence.
But we also know that domestic violence often escalates, and victims’ advocates have shared concerns that requiring three incidents could leave a victim of physical abuse at greater risk to becoming a victim of domestic homicide.
That’s why legislation was introduced this session that would change the definition of “pattern of physical abuse.” Senate Bill 1491 would require only two incidents to establish that pattern, and would remove the stipulation that those must have taken place within the previous 12 months. The idea is that by decreasing the number of incidents required to establish a pattern of physical abuse, our criminal justice system can intervene sooner and hopefully save lives. The measure was approved on a bipartisan, unanimous vote this past week in the Senate Appropriations Committee and next moves to the full Senate for consideration.
Clearly, no single measure can address the full scope of domestic violence in our state. But I believe this bill represents another important step in that direction. In the meantime, if you or someone you know needs help because of domestic violence, there’s a toll-free number called Safeline. For help, call 1-800-522-SAFE (7233).
To contact me at the Capitol, please write to Senator Rob Standridge, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 417A, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (405) 521-5535.