Reports of domestic violence incidents in Oklahoma increased during the pandemic, state says

Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 6:32 PM CDT
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ARDMORE, Okla. (KXII) - 2020 saw the highest rates of domestic violence in Oklahoma in two decades, according to crime reports released by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

On average, seven out of every thousand people in the state were abused by someone at home last year.

The highest percentage of domestic violence took place around Tulsa, averaging 13 people per thousand.

But for most counties in South Central Oklahoma, the rate is lower than the state average, with around five people per thousand experiencing domestic violence-except in two counties.

In Carter County, 7.4 people per thousand are abused at home.

In Garvin county, the rate is 9.3 people per thousand.

Sulphur Police Chief Michael Plunkett said unfortunately, domestic abuse calls are just a normal part of his week.

“We do tend to see some of the same people multiple times,” Plunkett said.

Plunkett said the violence often gets worse each time.

“Earlier this week an individual headbutted a woman to the point where it knocked her down, hit her head against some stair railings, cut her head open, broke her nose, gave her a concussion,” Plunkett said. “And the offender is a multiple time offender.”

According to Oklahoma Watch reporter Whitney Bryen, when the violence ends in a death, often the abuser has used strangulation at some point to scare the victim-and sometimes it’s the cause of the death.

“Strangulation is a climax of domestic abuse, ‘’ Bryen said. “A lot of abuse builds up to that and it is, for victims, an extremely violent situation. Your abuser is literally putting their hands around your neck and putting your life in their hands. They want the victim to know that they can take their life.”

Bryen said that strangulation is a warning sign to law enforcement, victims, and victim advocates that the violence is escalating and the victim’s life is at severe risk.

Plunkett said emotions always run high during domestic violence calls.

Bryen said those emotions could be why the violence increased during the pandemic- many families lost jobs, money was tight, and other stressors took a toll on families.

“Those kinds of stressors don’t cause domestic violence,” Bryen said. “But they can make an already volatile relationship even more dangerous and were contributing factors during the pandemic.”

Another compounding factor: fewer community members were able to look out for each other.

“With all those reporters, traditional reporters like teachers, neighbors, even family and friends that you don’t live with not seeing the victims as much, you’re in isolation,” Bryen said. “So those folks aren’t laying eyes on you, they’re not picking up on those traditional red flag warnings that they might otherwise pick up on.”

If your or a loved one is experiencing domestic violence, the Family Shelter of Southern Oklahoma is a good place to start your path to freedom. The Family Shelter of Southern Oklahoma has a 30 day shelter, counseling, and safety planning available. Call the 24 hour crisis hotline at (580) 226-6424.

You can also call the Oklahoma State Safeline at 1-800-522-SAFE (7233).

The national domestic abuse hotline is 800-799-SAFE (7233).

For more information on getting help in Oklahoma, visit this website.

For more information on getting help in Texas, visit this website.

If you are in an emergency situation, call 911.

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