This op-ed is written in response to a piece titled “In Oklahoma domestic abuse is technically a nonviolent crime” by Jason Hicks published Jan. 17.
I am a survivor of domestic abuse. I’m also a believer in stopping senseless sentencing enhancements that don’t help our community. I won’t be manipulated into silence or a convenient point of view for those in power.
It sickens me that anyone would exploit the trauma of surviving an abusive relationship to promote their own political agenda. And yet, that is exactly what a recent op-ed by an elected district attorney and chair of the Oklahoma District Attorneys Council is attempting to do to stop common-sense criminal justice reform like SQ 805.
As a domestic abuse survivor, I cannot sit quietly and be used as a political pawn by people in power. It has been my experience that there isn’t enough support and preventative measures for victims of domestic abuse. To exploit our pain for political gain further deepens the trauma.
This attempt to appeal to domestic abuse victims is click-bait writing to scare Oklahomans who support criminal justice reform. There is abundant and overwhelming research that shows our state’s use of extreme sentences don’t make our communities safer.
When district attorneys talk about the need for long prison sentences to address domestic violence, they show they don’t actually understand the needs of survivors – like me. Sadly, the individuals, too often women, most harmed by crime and violence are the least supported by law enforcement and the criminal justice system.
In a national study of victims’ views on safety and justice, only 1 in 4 victims report receiving help or support from the police and fewer – 1 in 10 – report getting it from the district attorney or prosecutor’s office.
Victims overwhelmingly support approaches to prosecution that focus more on early intervention and prevention, on working with victims and safety, than on long prison sentences.
Let me be clear: I want justice for those who suffer abuse and I want victims to feel safe. I strongly believe those who abuse their domestic partners and family should be held accountable.
I, personally, do not understand why domestic violence is statutorily defined as a nonviolent crime in Oklahoma. But trying to pit reform advocates against one another does not help victims or address the core issues that surround domestic abuse. Rather than telling me what I need as a victim – ask me.
Let us not confuse justice with just more years in prison.
Justice is best served when we can begin making something that was broken, whole. Justice is best served stopping a crime before it starts. Justice is best served when people feel they can seek help without fear of being punished themselves. And while in some cases justice is best served behind bars, sentences should be chosen based on data and best practices to ensure we’re not causing deeper harm.
Most victims are not receiving the support they need to recover and heal from domestic violence, and long prison sentences are diverting scarce resources away from vital trauma recovery programs and victims’ services.
As a survivor, I would not be a part of this reform movement if I thought that it could harm victims of domestic violence.
I support and believe in SQ 805. I believe common sense criminal justice reform will serve our state and other survivors. Oklahomans are ready for meaningful reform. The cycle of broken promises must end here.
Jacqueline Blocker is the Community Engagement Director at Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform.