November 2017 Column Winner

A place where lives can be changed
Suzie Campbell, Countywide & Sun

Last month I wrote a series about domestic violence. I wrote my own experience with this national problem. While writing the series I discovered how much the perspective has changed regarding this, but I also discovered how much it has remained the same.
Changes have been made to laws as well as the training of law enforcement on how to handle these situations. When I went through my experience, there was no such thing as stalking.
There are now laws to protect victims from their stalkers.
Law enforcement officers now receive training as well as the use of forms to determine the severity of the abuse. According to Deputy Scott Hawkins, there are questions on the forms that can “trigger” the need for safety plans without the victim asking directly for help.
The public as a whole is more aware and informed about domestic violence. However, the age-old question of “Why didn’t she just leave?” still tends to be the first question asked. I said it in the series and I’ll say it again here. It is not that simple. The abuse begins slowly and by the time you consider leaving, the abuser has control over your life. When they feel that control is slipping is when things become more violent. When you gather the courage to leave is when the abuser feels he or she has lost all control. This is when they become the most violent.
It is not always a threat directed at the victim that keeps them in the relationship. It is often a threat to those they love. I know my ex made threats to me to harm members of my family.
This was way more terrifying than the thought of staying in the relationship. I made the choice to marry this person. My family should not be harmed for my bad decisions. So I stayed in the relationship much longer than I should have.
Sometimes the threats are made against the pets. For most of us our pets are an extension of our family and most shelters are not equipped to take in the victim and their pet. However, I recently saw where the Women’s Resource Center of Norman opened a shelter for the dogs and cats of abused women.
So many changes are being made to make it easier for victims to leave their abusers. Pottawatomie County is looking at an opportunity to make leaving easier with a new Family Justice Center.
The Family Justice Center’s One Safe Place offers a way out to victims. “We have investigators, advocacy, prosecutors, legal aide and mental health services,” said Cathy Adams, Assistant District Attorney.
All of these services located in one place. No need for multiple stops. I can only imagine how awesome that would be. The ability to walk out of an abusive relationship and into a facility designed to wrap their services around you, to lift you up emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. A place where they believe you, believe your story.
“One of the big keys that is important to me personally,” said District Attorney Richard Smothermon, “research shows, that after the basic needs are met, that is food and shelter, clothing, maybe transportation, the third most important thing is spiritual care. Because you had this traumatic event, you need somebody to talk to.
“Right back here in my floor plan is a chapel. You walk in these doors, no access here, no access here, then over here these are all sealed entrances. You can talk to the receptionist, you can go to the bathroom or you can go pray.”
The Family Justice Center’s One Safe Place is well on its way to becoming the one stop shop it should be, but they will need the help of the community to bring this vision to fruition. A time will come when money will be needed to build a facility to host all of the services mentioned above as well as a courtroom, a chapel and possibly a school. This will be a place where the victim and their children can go and feel safe and protected.
This will be a place where their lives will be changed, saved. This will be One Safe Place.

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