New Domestic Violence Assessment Takes Effect Nov. 1

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, and this month will culminate with a new law designed to protect victims of domestic abuse. On November 1, Oklahoma law enforcement officers responding to domestic calls will be required to ask certain questions to determine the risk a victim holds of being killed by his or her abuser. Currently, responding police are required by law only to give the victim a card with the phone number for the state domestic violence hotline. Supporters of the law say the new measure will not only give police more information about the nature of the assault, but will help victims of domestic abuse understand the dangers they face in an abusive relationship. A person in an abusive relationship may have a tendency to believe that the assault was a one-time deal, or may think that the abuser will change his or her ways, or that the abuse will never escalate. However, being confronted with questions like, "Has he or she ever threatened to kill you?" or "Has he or she ever tried to choke you?" may help someone face the reality that domestic abuse can quickly turn deadly when an abuser's rage is out of control. Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of domestic abuse and intimate partner violence in the nation. The Violence Policy Center reports that for the second year straight, Oklahoma ranks third in the number of women killed by men. That number takes into account only the number of women killed by men in single-victim homicides--it does not include women killed in multiple-victim homicides, including murder-suicide or familicide (murder of the spouse and children). The Oklahoma Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board reports that only 2 percent of women killed in domestic homicide over the 10 year span of the study had accessed domestic violence support services. The fatality review board found in its 2012 annual report that, despite the evidence of prior violence in 77 percent of intimate partner homicides, only 24 percent of the victims had a protective order against their abusers. Certainly, the state's statistics regarding domestic violence, intimate partner violence, and domestic homicide are sobering. It is clear that the state needs to take firm measures to reduce domestic abuse. Hopefully, the new domestic violence risk assessment measures to be implemented November 1, 2014, will encourage those in an abusive relationship to get the help they need to escape such a situation. If you or someone you love is in immediate danger in a domestic situation, call 9-1-1 for emergency help. Otherwise, call the Oklahoma Domestic Violence Safeline at 800-522-SAFE (7233).

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