Oklahoma is a highly ranked state when it comes to sports. But, we also rank 11th in the nation (per capita) for the number of women killed by men according to Domestic Violence Intervention Services (DVIS). Out of 50 states, that should have been news that stuck in our collective throat every bit as much as the outcome of the OU/Texas Weekend.
The dead aside, the stats for the living are not much better.
Reported in October 2010 by the YWCA of Oklahoma City, one quarter of Oklahoma women will fall prey to some form of domestic violence and nearly three-quarters of women in the state's prisons are victims of some form of physical assault or sexual abuse from a domestic partner. Moreover, the instigators of the adult violence are 70 percent more likely to abuse children in the same household.
It comes in many forms, and transcends class because it can be fueled by substance abuse, mental illness, financial stress and fracturing relationships. In short, catalysts that may affect any of us at some point -- though catalysts that can sometimes push some people (particularly insecure men) over the edge.
Such was the case in 2001 when the story of Amy Homan McGee was catapulted into the national spotlight. McGee was shot in the head at point blank range by her husband in 2001 after years of domestic abuse. The case was a rallying cry for anti-domestic violence activists who were appalled that the system had failed one woman so many times, to her ultimate demise.
For years McGee put up with her husband's physical and substance abuse. Over that time, when she wasn't being abused, she was rarely out of her husband's sight, his controlling nature dictating that she be accessible at all times, even at work. That kind of insecure jealously can be a catalyst for violence, as much as it may be fueled by historical violence and abandonment issues themselves. It's a vicious cycle that hands itself down like a virus.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, and the plight of many in McGee's shoes is brought into focus in the documentary, Telling Amy's Story. Produced by Penn State Public Broadcasting (McGee was a resident of the city of State College, Penn.), with funding from Verizon, Telling Amy's Story chronicles the myriad incidents that should have sent the engines of justice into overdrive to protect McGee from her emotionally and physically abusive husband -- engines that ultimately stalled.
Organizations like DVIS use the documentary as a tool to educate people in what to look for and how to respond to domestic violence, either in their lives or in the lives of friends and acquaintances.
But there's only so much one can do when the legal system itself is culpable. Lax gun laws -- Homan's husband had the gun that shot his wife after it had been returned by police who simply could not legally confiscate it -- and spotty statutes that don't do enough to empower the victim in situations of marital abuse.
DVIS' mission is to educate about these issues and call those to duty that stand on the front lines against abuse either out of contentiousness or the redemption of one's own victimhood. Given Oklahoma's poor record concerning domestic violence, our pool of volunteers (whom DVIS is always seeking out and in need of) to speak out, educate and intervene in cases of violence in the home should be vast.
To volunteer either time or resources -- or to seek help in a domestic violence situation -- contact Domestic Violence Intervention Services at dvis.org.
See the full documentary Telling Amy's Story at Circle Cinema, 12 S. Lewis Ave., on Monday, Oct. 17 at 6pm. Admission is free and there will be a panel discussion after the documentary. Penn State's website, telling.psu.edu, also offers access to the documentary and hosts some great resources for discussing the issue, spreading awareness of the problem and spotting and dealing with violence in the home so that instances like Amy's become less and less of a horrific reality.
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