Published 04/15/2020 | Reading Time 5 min 10 sec
TULSA, Okla. — Domestic Violence Intervention Services (DVIS) and Tulsa’s Family Safety Center (FSC) are reminding the public their services remain available for anyone experiencing domestic violence and sexual abuse during the city’s current stay-at-home order. The stay-at-home order specifically clarifies individuals are allowed to leave their homes for health and safety reasons, meaning victims of abuse will not get in legal trouble for leaving their homes or current location to seek the assistance they need.
“Abuse can escalate more quickly and become more violent when people are asked to stay home,” said Tracey Lyall, Chief Executive Officer at DVIS. “We want to make sure anyone experiencing abuse has the information they need to seek help and safety through our resources. We have updated our protocols for providing services to accommodate social distancing best practices, but ensuring safety for Tulsa families is still our number one priority.”
“Those experiencing domestic violence and sexual assault should not wait until the stay-at-home order ends to access DVIS services,” said Jackie Steyn, Domestic Violence and Mental Health Professional. “We don’t want anyone to remain in a dangerous situation, so it’s crucial that the public knows victims can still access services, get help and seek safety during this time.”
DVIS services include safe housing through their emergency shelter and transitional housing apartments, legal assistance such as safety planning, advocacy and legal counsel, and counseling, including telemedicine. Additionally, the Tulsa County law enforcement agencies and District Attorney’s Office will continue to hold perpetrators accountable for domestic violence and sexual assault crimes.
“The isolation I experienced due to mental abuse from my partner was hurtful and dangerous,” said Salonne Carter, DVIS survivor. “I remember feeling trapped, like I didn’t have anywhere to go or anyone to turn to. I am worried for other victims of abuse living in our community. The unintended outcome of social distancing due to COVID-19 is survivors and their children may be trapped in a dangerous situation.”
The stay-at-home order specifically clarifies that individuals are allowed to leave their homes for health and safety reasons. Seeking aid, shelter or one of the other DVIS services falls under the health and safety category.
“While staying at home helps slow the spread of COVID-19, I recognize it isn’t necessarily the safest option for everyone. Some Tulsans have to deal with the threat of abuse and violence inside their homes and should not hesitate to leave and seek safety and available services from trusted community organizations like DVIS and FSC,” said Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum. “I’m grateful to the countless organizations and first responders who work to keep their doors open to provide resources for people who need help during this challenging time.”
While the Family Safety Center office is not open to visitors, resources for domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, harassment and elder abuse victims are still available through FSC by calling 918-742-7480 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“FSC has worked closely with the Court and law enforcement agencies to develop a new process for protective orders. Those in need of protective orders during the stay-at-home period can now contact local law enforcement by calling 9-1-1,” said Suzann Stewart, Executive Director at Family Safety Center. “When law enforcement arrives, the police officers will file immediately the protective order paperwork for domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and/or dating violence victims. From there the police department will work directly with the Tulsa County District Court to grant orders. Victims will not need to leave their homes or visit the court.”
Victims of any type of abuse should not wait to seek help. The teams at DVIS and Family Safety Center are available, ready to help and are continuing to explore additional ways to expand community outreach and connections. Updates and additional information can be found at www.dvis.org or www.fsctulsa.org or on the DVIS or Family Safety Center Facebook pages.