Group critical of states' domestic violence laws

Wednesday, August 16th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A lack of laws aimed at improving healthcare responses to domestic violence resulted in Oklahoma getting a poor grade from a watchdog group. The Family Violence Prevention Fund in San Francisco gave Oklahoma and 34 other states a D grade in a report this week.

The nonprofit group's State-by-State Report Card on Health Care Laws and Domestic Violence rated each state based on whether it has effective laws in five critical areas: training, screening, protocols, reporting and insurance. Only Pennsylvania received an A.

"State lawmakers are failing battered women," said Debbie Lee, health director for the group. "This report card gives states a mandate to improve their records." The first-ever report said nearly 30 percent of American women report physical or sexual abuse by an intimate partner at some time in their lives. Health care providers often can help victims of abuse, if they are trained to screen for domestic violence, to recognize signs of abuse and to intervene effectively, the group said.

The report showed Oklahoma laws require medical providers be offered only non mandatory training on domestic violence. Oklahoma was one of only 11 states with any laws addressing training. Just four states have enacted screening laws that help healthcare providers ask all patients about family violence. Nine states have domestic violence protocol laws that require health systems to develop written policies on domestic violence issues, according to the report.

Connie Pope, of the Oklahoma County District Attorney's domestic violence intervention team, said she believes the Legislature has begun to recognize family violence as a problem. "But we've got a long way to go," she said. Pope said local health, law and volunteer agencies have developed training and screening education programs for medical workers and others who deal with abuse victims.