Domestic violence is one of the most underreported crimes across the country.
Now, law enforcement and family resources in Canadian County are working to make sure women who do come forward can quickly and easily get the help they need.
“Women don't leave because it's convenient. They leave because they're scared,” domestic violence survivor and Cardinal Point Advisory Council member Heidi Oliver said. “They leave because they're hurt, and we want to make it a convenient place for them to go.”
As Canadian County has grown, so have the reported cases of domestic violence.
“Last year, there were about 600 reported cases of domestic violence, and we know that that 600 is probably the tip of the iceberg,” District Attorney Mike Fields said. “Historically, those two crimes, domestic violence and sexual assault, are very underreported crimes.”
Now, more than 15 law enforcement and social service agencies will be able to come together at Cardinal Point. They will help with legal aid, protective orders, housing, mental health resources and more for both survivors and children.
Fields said the idea and direction for the organization was formed by a group of domestic violence and sexual assault survivors who assessed how the county could do better, and what services they wish were afforded to them.
“Victims all too often are left to fend for themselves, they are left out there on their own without having clear direction,” he said.
“I've been a survivor now for 22 years,” Oliver said. “My main goal is to let women know that there is hope, there is hope after being a victim, there is hope when you become that survivor; when you're living your best life because you have escaped the violence and you don't have to stay.”
According to a national organization helping establish family justice centers, Canadian County’s Cardinal Point will be the first center of its kind to be housed alongside juvenile justice services.
“This is a message of hope,” Fields said. “We want to offer them hope, we want to be able to offer them a path forward.”
Cardinal Point hopes to move into the facility early fall.