Women's abuse awareness raised at Capitol

Thursday, March 27th 2008, 5:47 pm
By: News 9

By Amy Lester, NEWS 9

The number of women in Oklahoma that will suffer physical abuse from a current or former romantic partner, at some point, is 244,000.

That's why advocates, politicians and survivors were working to raise awareness on Thursday at the Capitol.

"This is a problem that we are going to end, we're going to make our homes safe," said Oklahoma Attorney General, Drew Edmondson.

There were passionate outcries from state leaders.

"We can break that cycle of domestic violence, not just for ourselves but for our children," said U.S. Congresswoman, Mary Fallin.

Heartfelt stories were told from families torn apart by domestic violence, like Sandy Mendenhall whose daughter was murdered.

"Those of us who are friends, family, whatever, need to speak out on their behalf," Mendenhall said. "They're silent, we don't have to be and we need not to be."

The silhouettes tell their stories. Each one belongs to a domestic violence victim, murdered in Oklahoma.

Virginia Hemphill and her sister lost their mom, Christie Pool. She was shot to death, by her ex-boyfriend, four days after filing a protective order.

"It's affecting me a lot because not having a mother to go and talk to and it's just really sad," Hemphill said.

She put 28 teddy bears at her mom's feet, the age she'd be if she was still alive. The family's hope is that no one else knows their pain.

"You have value, you don't have to put up with this, you don't have to be in this situation, there is help, there are places to go," Hemphill said.

Marcia Smith is with the Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. She said last year, domestic violence and sexual assault agencies in Oklahoma saved more than 17,000 lives. 

"The people who die in domestic violence homicides are not going to shelters and crisis centers, so we thought if we focus on the lives we save there, people might be more inclined to come," Smith said.

The agencies need more funding to continue those services. That's something the Attorney General's working on.

The Attorney General's asking for an additional $2.5 million in state money for domestic violence services.

Domestic violence advocates said they sometimes have to turn people away, because many of their agencies are beyond capacity.