Attorney General Calls For More Funding For Domestic Violence Shelters

Tuesday, April 17th 2007, 2:21 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Attorney General Drew Edmondson, warning that more needs to be done to stem domestic violence, called on state lawmakers Tuesday to pump another $3 million into Oklahoma's network of domestic violence and sexual assault programs.

Edmondson said 14 people have died in the state in domestic violence-related incidents so far this year. At that rate, he said, as many as 40 people will die from domestic violence in 2007.

"Domestic violence has in my mind reached epidemic proportions," Edmondson said. Just last week, a 60-year-old woman who had been married only two weeks was shot to death in downtown Wynnewood allegedly by her 61-year-old husband.

Marcia Smith, executive director of the Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, said one in eight Oklahoma women are affected by domestic violence.

Last year alone, domestic violence shelters and counselors provided everything from medication to shelter to relocation assistance for almost 11,000 Oklahomans. Between 300 and 400 people, many of them women and their children, reside in domestic violence shelters at any given time across the state, Smith said.

"There's no question about it -- these programs save lives," Edmondson said. Yet, funding for Oklahoma's 29 certified domestic violence and sexual assault service providers has not increased in 13 years, said Edmondson, whose office oversees the state's $4.1 million domestic violence budget.

"I have not talked to a single legislator who has said this is a bad idea," he said. “But lawmakers must make domestic violence programs a priority as they debate the state's budget.”

Smith said that although funding for domestic violence programs has not risen, the state ranks seventh in the nation in the number of women killed by men and reports of rape in the state are 38% higher than the national average.

Smith said half the counties in the state do not have domestic violence and sexual abuse programs because of funding issues.

"This is an opportunity for the Legislature to address a problem that is literally in their own backyards," Smith said.

Edmondson said he supports legislation that would direct some court filing fees to domestic violence and sexual assault programs. The plan would provide about $1.5 million in additional funding.

But the attorney general said the proposal is only a partial solution.

"The programs need $3 million additional dollars to provide the services that are needed," Edmondson said.