Legislative Panel Views Domestic Violence Laws

Article excerpt

Associated Press

Social tolerance, poorly trained judges and police officers and a lack of funding for those assisting victims make the problem of domestic violence worse, legislators were told Monday.

"We put the word domestic in front of it (violence) and somehow it reduces it," Georgie Rasco told the state House Health and Mental Health Committee.

"All in all, we should start looking at it as seriously as other random violence going on on Oklahoma streets."

Rasco, administrator for the Oklahoma Coalition on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, was among those speaking at a hearing at the state Capitol.

The hearing, called by committee chairman Jeff Hamilton, D-Midwest City, and Rep. Laura Boyd, D-Norman, was a fact-finding effort aimed at determining if Oklahoma's laws are sufficient in the area of domestic violence.

Legislators also looked at the services available for domestic violence victims.

Boyd said domestic violence is the No. 1 public health risk to adult women in the U.S. Some 95 percent of victims are women, she said.

Domestic violence costs society billions of dollars a year in medical bills, lost productivity of victims and investigative and protective services, among other expenses, she said.

Professionals who deal with domestic violence victims and the victims themselves expressed concern with the criminal justice system's response to the problem, social attitudes toward abuse and funding for programs.

"We constantly try to think of `Why doesn't she just leave? Why does she stay?"' Rasco said. "It's easier for us to think about controlling the victim."

Gayle Gilleland, a Norman woman who said she was a victim of household violence, said the question should be "Why in society...do we tolerate such behavior?"'

Sharon Daniel of Ada said her daughter tried three times to get a victim's protection order in Oklahoma County, but a special judge denied the request each time.

"It was all she could do to crawl out of the courtroom," Daniel said. "Even now, the thought of having to go through this again is devastating."

Lawyer Gail Strickland said judges in Oklahoma County who deal with domestic violence cases generally have no training in that area. …