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Oklahoma’s domestic violence rates second highest in nation

by Deon Osborne, Associate Editor
Oklahoma’s domestic violence rates second highest in nation
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If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or Tulsa’s Domestic Violence Intervention Services (DVIS) hotline at 918.7HELP.ME.


Despite being a member of the “Bible Belt”, Oklahoma’s rate of domestic violence reached a 20-year high and recorded the second-highest rate of women murdered by men in 2020, the most recent data shows.

According to a report from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation titled “Crime in Oklahoma 2020,” there were 27,089 abuses perpetrated by family members, current or former partners, and roommates reported to law enforcement. 

The report and an analysis by Whitney Bryen of Oklahoma Watch shows the alarming rate represents a 20-year high in a state with one of the most conservative, protestant Christians.

“Everyone knows someone. So, no matter who you are,  someone may be in your path that’s experienced domestic violence,” Tracey Lyall, CEO of Domestic Violence Intervention Services (DVIS), told The Black Wall Street Times in October.

DVIS launches series during Domestic Violence Awareness Month

During Domestic Violence Awareness Month, DVIS launched a public series to raise concerns and spur action on the issue. 

“DVIS Community Talks: Conversations to Confront Violence” launched on Oct. 20, also known as Purple Thursday. It included survivors and a panel of Tulsa Police Department officers experienced with domestic violence calls.

“Whether you’re a friend or a loved one of someone who’s being harmed, or whether you’re the person being harmed, knowing that DVIS is here in Tulsa, and that we have advocates 24 hours a day that can answer a call and help you talk through whatever the issue is, no matter who you are” is important, Lyall said.

In 2020, the year with the most recent data available, Oklahoma recorded 138 domestic violence-related deaths, a 44% increase from the previous year, according to the Oklahoma Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board’s 2021 annual report.

Tulsa County recorded the highest rates of abuse in the state, with nearly 13 out of every 1,000 residents reporting abuse. Notably, the abuse disproportionately impacts Black and Native American women. Black women constitute one out of every four adult female domestic violence homicide victims even though they account for less than 10% of the adult female population.

Native American women make up 11.6% of adult female victims, a rate the Fatality Review Board recorded as 47% higher than their share of the adult female population.

“This is one of the greatest public health, public safety issues in our community in Tulsa,” Lyall told The Black Wall Street Times.

Tracey Lyall: Domestic violence is not a “private matter”

Despite having a higher population of Evangelical Christians than almost any other state, Oklahoma’s rate of domestic violence continues to soar.

“I think people sometimes think this is a private matter,” Lyall said. “Anybody should want to get involved in getting behind creating a safer community and safer families in Tulsa, and we need the community to help us do that.”

The DVIS CEO said it’s important that people take any action they can, whether that’s referring someone to their services or supporting survivors on their own by believing them and helping them get to safety.

“That’s really what’s going to save lives and stop the cycle. Sometimes it’s a generational cycle of domestic violence. We have to help families get out so that the cycle is not repeated in the next generation,” Lyall said.

In 2020, Oklahoma lawmakers took the important step of labeling domestic violence a violent crime, which requires offenders to serve at least 85% of their sentence.

While advocates like Lyall sees it as a good sign, she wonders why it took so long.

“Until we really put some focus and energy into domestic violence in our community, we’re gonna continue to have kids growing up in poverty being traumatized by violence in the home,” Lyall said. 

“It affects our educational institutions and our mental health services. If we don’t start curbing this on the front end, every other social problem is going to be worse, and violence is going to continue to increase.”

To learn more about DVIS or to seek services, visit dvis.org or call 918.7HELP.ME.

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