Domestic violence is a significant problem in the state of Oklahoma. Nationally, Oklahoma is ranked sixth for the highest rate of physical intimate partner violence, and there are over 21,000 calls every 15 minutes to domestic violence hotlines, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Oklahoma leaders know the statistics and are ready to do something about it. Beginning February 18th, Oklahoma City will have an operational Felony Domestic Violence Court. This new Domestic Violence (DV) Court aims to ensure follow-through on all felony domestic violence cases, help aid victims, but most importantly, hold domestic violence perpetrators accountable. The court will also move felony cases quicker through the legal system and joins around two dozen courts like it in the United States.

Increased monitoring

The City of Tulsa was the first city to house a Felony DV Court in Oklahoma and has seen large improvements of the defendants being held accountable for their actions. According to their research, the compliance of abusers with required services has risen dramatically, from 16% before the court began mandatory monthly reviews, to 80%. They report the new level of compliance has sustained for about three years. OKC’s Felony DV Court is expected to follow the same path as Tulsa’s. There will be one court with one judge that will hear all cases once a month. Defendants are expected to take a drug test and results will be ready by the time they are in front of the judge. The judge will also make sure that defendants are up-to-date with all classes, services, and fees for programs they are ordered to attend. Failure to comply may result in a variety of sanctions, ranging from community service to incarceration. The goal is for these defendants to change their behavior, get them on the right path, and get them the help they need to be effective members of society. Offenses will be heard include: assault and battery-domestic, violation of a protective order, stalking, abuse/exploitation by caretaker, verbal abuse by caretaker, abuse/exploitation of a vulnerable adult, human trafficking, maintaining a house of prostitution, engaging in prostitution, engaging in prostitution within 1,000 feet of a school, pandering/procuring for prostitution, unlawful restraint of female in house of prostitution, owner or proprietor permitting pandering, offering or transporting a child for purpose of prostitution, and child prostitution-unlawful detainment in a prostitution house.

What does this mean for Family Builders?

The leadership of our Batterer’s Intervention Program has advocated for the Domestic Violence Court model to come to Oklahoma County for years. They have highlighted this need in presentations at the Attorney General’s Partners Conference on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, as well as in other presentations in the community. OKC’s DV Court appears to be on the right path for collaboration between the justice system and local community agencies to effectively tackle the high numbers of domestic violence incidents. The Batterer’s Intervention Program is going to play a vital role in DV Court as the judges will use the program to help change abusive behavior; along with other services such as mental health, drug and alcohol abuse counseling, and anger management. These services can be used in collaboration with one another, and that will be decided on a case by case basis. With this new DV Court, Family Builders will potentially see an increase in the number of BIP clients, an increase in clients paying on-time for services, and a decrease in the BIP client drop-out rate. Family Builders’ staff will be expected to create a monthly report on each client to be given to the DV Court Coordinator who will be the liaison between the court and all community partners.

Next Steps

In Tulsa, law enforcement staff and probation officers have all been trained for the new court, and bench warrants are issued for defendants who do not show up each month to court. OKC’s DV court is expected to operate the same way. There is hope that this new court will help all of those affected in domestic violence cases, and Tulsa officials have stated more victims are accessing services with the court in place. The ultimate goal is increased victim safety, and that appears to be greatly enhanced with this approach. For now, DV Court will only be for felony cases, and the court is being funded by a large donor. OKC officials will apply for a “Violence Against Women” grant with the Department of Justice later this year, and if granted, the court will then be able to hear misdemeanor cases.

For more information about the Batterer’s Invention Program, or if you need more resources, please call Family Builders at (405) 232-8226.

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