$1.5 MILLION grant to help Oklahoma combat violence against women

Saturday, September 1st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ The federal government announced Friday it will give Oklahoma $1.5 million to make the state a safer place for women.

The grant, an annual allocation based on population, is down from nearly $1.7 million awarded last year. But every dime is needed in a state where reports of domestic violence continue to rise, advocates say.

``We know nationally about one in 10 women is battered at some point in her lifetime by an abusive partner,'' said Ann Lowrance, director of domestic violence and sexual assault services for the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

``In Oklahoma in 1999, we ranked No. 7 nationally in the number of women killed by abusive partners.''

The most common form of violence against women in Oklahoma is perpetrated by an intimate partner or a former partner, Lowrance said.

New statistics from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation show Oklahoma had 22,065 cases of reported domestic abuse last year, up from 21,211 the year before. Ten years ago, there were 14,814 cases.

The increase may be attributed in part to better reporting, officials said.

But Wanda Welch, executive director of the Family Crisis Center serving Ada and Pauls Valley, said that when services aren't available, many women will not seek help. The state's 29 domestic violence programs are spread over 77 counties.

``They're staying in,'' she said. ``They're not getting the information and knowledge they need to help them make choices.''

The grant comes under the U.S. Justice Department's STOP program, an acronym for Services, Training, Officers and Prosecutors. It is intended to promote partnerships among law enforcement, prosecution, courts and victim advocates.

Welch said her center will use the money to fund two court advocates who accompany victims of violence to court, help fill out protective orders or search out legal help for victims.

The Justice Department has awarded Oklahoma more than $9.1 million in STOP funds since 1995. The funds have been used to start a domestic violence fatality review board, train law enforcement and prosecutors and bolster services to victims, particularly in rural areas.

``No American should feel outside the protection of the law, or beyond the reach of the law,'' U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said in announcing the grants. ``The STOP program supports communities that champion victims' rights and develops coordinated responses to violence against women.''