Domestic violence in Oklahoma is at epidemic levels. According to the Violence Policy Center, Oklahoma ranked second in the nation for the number of women killed by men in domestic violence incidents in 2020. Reports of domestic violence in Oklahoma reached a 20-year high that same year. Outrage is completely understandable, and condemnation is certainly warranted. But words and concern are simply inadequate to address this epidemic. Responsible action by all of us is required.
Several years ago, my office launched “Operation 922” as a local strategy to reduce gun violence by targeting domestic violence. Specifically, my office focuses on repeat domestic abusers and violent offenders who violate federal firearms laws. Operation 922 uses the power of federal prosecution (primarily 18 U.S.C. § 922) to quickly remove from the home abusers with firearms and protect the victims over whom they exert control. To date, we have federally charged more than 310 defendants who come from 26 of the 40 counties in the Western District of Oklahoma. On average, they are sentenced to 72 months in federal prison. Yet, we cannot prosecute our way out of the epidemic.
Each of us must get involved and (1) be educated on the behavioral signs of physical and mental abuse; (2) be observant for indications of abusive behavior, refuse to ignore it, and speak up; (3) be a friend, listen to, believe, and support survivors when they bravely share the abuse they are suffering; (4) know the domestic violence service providers in your area so you can connect abuse victims to professionals for help; (5) get involved and support the organizations providing critical services to abuse survivors; (6) teach the next generation that abuse is wholly unacceptable and that “no” means “no” and “stop” means “stop;” and (7) speak up to hold abusers accountable. Decide today to be a person of action who refuses to sit idly by while your friends, mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters suffer from unwarranted mental and physical abuse.
To those victimized by domestic violence — please know that you are not to blame, and you are not alone. Please tell someone. Seek help. Many individuals and organizations are ready and willing to provide the help and services you need.
Domestic violence must stop! We can fight this epidemic, but it will take personal responsibility by all of us to step up and be part of the solution.
Robert J. Troester, United States Attorney, Western District of Oklahoma