Wal-Mart Joins "End The Violence" Domestic Abuse Campaign

Tuesday, November 20th 2007, 12:07 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Women who shop at Oklahoma Wal-Mart stores during the holidays will find more than bargains; they'll also be able to privately get information on what to do if they are victims of domestic violence.

Attorney General Drew Edmondson said Tuesday the Arkansas-based retailer has teamed up with his office in a public awareness campaign called "End the Silence – End the Violence" that he said will "try to stop the curse of domestic violence."

Wal-Mart has agreed to place specially designed informational posters in female-only areas of its stores, such as bathrooms and dressing rooms, where abuse victims can privately gain access to information out of sight of their abuser, Edmondson said.

The goal of the campaign is to help domestic violence victims get information about shelters and domestic violence service programs in their area. Informational leaflets are printed in both English and Spanish.

"Our message is simple," the attorney general said. "Help is available -- all you have to do is ask."

So far this year, 55 people have died in domestic violence related crimes in Oklahoma, Edmondson said. A study by the Violence Policy Center in Washington ranked the state 10th in the nation in the rate of women murdered by men in 2005.

"We will never know how many of those deaths could have been prevented if these women had only known where to go for help," the attorney general said.

Informational posters will initially be placed in 10 Wal Mart stores in eight communities, including Tulsa and Oklahoma City, but officials plan to eventually place posters in all of the state's approximately 100 stores. Wal Mart is involved in a similar domestic violence program in South Carolina.

Angie Stoner, senior manager for public affairs for Wal Mart Stores, said Oklahomans regularly gather and shop at the company's retail stores, making them ideal places for women to get information about domestic violence programs.

"Wal-Mart is the heart of many communities," Stoner said. "Our stores are the perfect place to link domestic violence victims to the programs and services that can save their lives."

Jan Peery, chief executive officer of the YWCA of Oklahoma City, said women are not the only victims of domestic violence. Children in an abusive home are also victimized 62% of the time.

"This is truly a cycle of violence," Edmondson said. Abused children are more likely to become abusers themselves, he said.

"This will save lives," Peery said.

Edmondson said authorities received more than 11,000 reports of domestic violence last year. The state has 29 domestic violence shelters but 44 Oklahoma counties -- mostly in western Oklahoma -- have no resources within their borders to shelter and counsel battered women.

Oklahoma Safeline, 1-800-522-SAFE, is a 24-hour hotline that serves as a statewide referral source for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking and can find shelter and help for domestic violence victims wherever they live, Edmondson said.

In the last two years, Wal-Mart has donated $49,000 to the Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic violence and Sexual Assault's emergency escape fund. Last year, Wal-Mart Stores and Sam's Club contributed more than $7.1 million to local causes and organizations in the communities they serve in the state.