For the past 20 years, Oklahoma has remained among the nation's worst for domestic violence statistics, but some groups within our state are suffering even more than others.
Statistics show that minority women are much more likely to experience domestic abuse than white women, and experts say the causes are systemic.
Nationally, Black women and Native American women become homicide victims more than any other female group per capita. The CDC reports more than half of those cases are domestic.
“More women are dying at the hands of their abusers, at the hands of the people that are supposed to love them, than for any other reason,” says Angela Beatty, YWCA senior director for domestic violence victim services.
Beatty says the root causes of these experiences started generations ago. “You think about the historical trauma from what’s happened to the Native American populations here,” she says. “You think about historical trauma from things like the race riots in Tulsa that are just two generations removed.
For both the Black and Native populations, Beatty says a deep-seated mistrust of authority means victims often are not reporting the crimes until it is too late. She says, “As an advocate it can be difficult to say ‘well, you should have called the police’ because they may not have a good relationship with law enforcement in their community.”
Oklahoma's Native Alliance Against Violence reports more than half of Native women have experienced domestic violence, though, and you may be surprised to learn that of those cases, 85% of the perpetrators were non-Native men.
NAAV director Dawn Stover says the abusers are not being punished accordingly. “They will often be given a plea sentence that pleads down those charges to assault and battery and sometimes even lesser charges,” she says.
Stover says there are also problems with non-tribal police ignoring tribe-issued protective orders, allowing the abuse to continue.
Advocacy groups are working to help victims break free, but say they need help to make real change. Stover says, “We need to really speak out to our lawmakers, our judges, our district attorneys, our prosecutors, our law enforcement and ask them to get on board in holding perpetrators accountable.”
If you or a loved one are experiencing domestic violence, you can call the Domestic Violence hotline at (405) 917-9922, or connect to Palomar’s services here.
To learn more about YWCA, click here.
To learn more about NAAV, click here.
Editor’s Note: News 9 is part of a local initiative that brings all of our local media outlets together to give Oklahoma a United Voice in promoting a healthy dialogue on race. To see more stories, visit UnitedVoiceOK.org.