STILLWATER, Okla. —
More than black eyes
Oliver said she is shocked by how commonplace abuse is.
“I talk to women who check 15 out of 20 on the danger assessment and they don’t identify themselves as a victim because they’ve never had a black eye,” she said. “It’s been everything else — the control, the manipulation and the harassment — plus the psychology around everything else, maybe to the extent of choking, grabbing or throwing.”
Wings of Hope is a nonprofit agency. It offers a variety of services for domestic abuse issues, from emergency protective orders to providing a shelter on site. The shelter is women only and takes care of all the family’s basic needs. It may provide clothing, toiletry, groceries and most often a private bedroom. Victims pay nothing for counseling, protective orders, group therapy or shelter stays.
Oliver estimates 95 percent of emergency protection orders come through the Wings of Hope. Trained staff help individuals explain why a court order is needed.
The Payne County District Attorney’s office is part of a coordinated community response team for domestic violence in Payne County.
Assistant District Attorney Lynn Hermanson prosecutes domestic violence cases for the county. Hermanson works with Wings of Hope, the Iowa Tribe and law enforcement personnel.
Hermanson said the team focuses on helping the victim.
On the prosecution’s behalf, not all cases go to trial. At this time, 205 cases have been accepted for prosecution.
Many times, the victim will not cooperate with law enforcement or assist in the prosecution of their abuser, Hermanson said.
“A good plea deal is a victory,” she said. “The bigger picture is justice for the victim and the community interest. That’s my goal for each case.”
The time it takes to prosecute a case can postpone a victim’s closure.
“For someone to have something significant happen, when they are trying to heal and move on, it can be a delay,” she said.
For that reason, Hermanson said she tries to file cases as quickly as possible. She often faces the hurdle of keeping in contact with the victim, who also may be afraid to testify.
“On average, it takes a woman seven times of trying to leave the relationship,” Oliver said. “Knowing that, if we hear them talking, and it’s the fifth time they’ve tried to leave him, it counts as success because it’s one step closer.”
Law enforcement personnel conduct investigations, file reports and make arrests if supported by physical evidence and statements of victims and witnesses.
Stillwater Police Department spokesman Capt. Randy Dickerson said it is important for responding police officers to remember that domestic violence cases may be routine for police, but it isn’t for the people involved.
“Domestic violence brings with it some unique dynamics as compared to other crimes,” he said. “First, the suspect and the victim have a personal relationship which brings into play heightened emotions and reactions.”
The process of filing a report or making an arrest has long-lasting ramifications on the children and family of the involved persons.”