BY JOE DORMAN
Did you know that 11,418 children in Oklahoma were victims of child abuse or neglect during fiscal year 2013? The most recent data show a nearly 58% increase in child victims since fiscal year 2010, when 7,248 Oklahoma children were harmed.
Did you know that domestic violence and sexual assault cost more than $727 million each year, with over 7.9 million paid workdays lost, as well?
Aware of it or not, this is an issue that is all around us. I have experienced two instances personally, and each had a lasting impact on me.
A former co-worker and a good friend got engaged, but her joy did not last long. She approached one of our senior staffers and confided to him she had been physically abused and did not know what to do. He offered to help her get assistance. He told me to meet him and we would help her move out of the house where she lived with her fiancé.
One of my other co-workers advised me to not get involved because it was a personal issue between the couple. I, of course, did not listen and helped her move, and I look back knowing I made the right decision.
Earlier this month I saw a woman walking down the highway with a child. I turned around to see if she needed assistance. She was distraught and confided that her boyfriend had thrown her out of his vehicle. Due to the condition of her clothing, I knew she was speaking literally. She was walking several miles back home.
I offered assistance and let her use my phone. She began crying when she could not remember any phone numbers.
Another vehicle pulled up and its occupants said they witnessed the incident. The abandoned woman refused any further assistance for calling authorities, and they offered her a ride home. I hope she is all right, although I cannot help but wonder if there was anything else I could have done.
Each of us can do our part to help stop this cycle of violence.
The YWCA shelter, established in 1974, was the very first in Oklahoma to offer assistance to women. This is an emergency shelter, providing help in obtaining legal services, transportation, housing information, medical care, child care and advocacy services for up to two months.
The YWCA shelter is a safe place for women and children to escape domestic violence. Open 24 hours 7days a week, the shelter provides immediate, emergency shelter and supplemental services to more than 350 women and children every year.
They can be reached at their 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline: 405-917-9922 or 24-hour Sexual Assault Hotline: 405-943-7273.
The CARE Center in Oklahoma City works with the parent or caregiver, the detective assigned to the case of the child, the DHS case worker. A child specialist will walk the family through a process of easing the anxiety of the child while allowing the person reporting the case to file the proper paperwork.
They will then interview the child using video that is admissible in court. Afterward, they provide specialized advocacy to assist with immediate needs and establish counseling services to help over the long term.
They also offer assistance with medical exams to make certain the child has not been hurt physically.
Both organizations have fund-raising events on Aug. 6. I am serving as a table sponsor for both and encourage you to join me at both these fund-raisers. The minimum donation for each is $100.
The YWCA hosts its Engaging Men breakfast that morning at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, beginning at 7 a.m. This event provides an excellent networking opportunity among hundreds of professional men across Oklahoma.
The program will highlight a testimonial – a personal, dramatic and heartwarming story. This annual event gives each guest a firsthand account of a person whose life has been changed – and a cycle of violence broken.
The CARE Center will hold its first advocacy luncheon, featuring Antwone Fisher. This will be at the University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, in the Grand Ballroom in the Nigh University Center, starting at 11:30 a.m. Aug. 6.
You can listen to Antwone’s personal experience about the abuse he overcame and his journey to launch the movie “Antwone Fisher” and become a best-selling author and speaker.
You can contact me at email@example.com or by phone at (580) 476-3745 for more information about these events and to RSVP. I hope you are able to attend and help break the cycle of violence we face in Oklahoma.
– Joe Dorman served House District 65 as a state representative for 12 years and was the 2014 Democratic nominee for governor. He currently is the community development director for Heart Mobile.