Domestic Violence Awareness Month: CCRT Group Photo

The Pottawatomie/Lincoln County CCRT group pictured in front of the Pottawattamie County Courthouse in Shawnee, Oklahoma for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  The group is wearing this years Heels On For Her t-shirt.  Come join us tomorrow evening 7pm at the Firelake Arena you won’t want to miss this event.

But, I Love Him

Is love enough to overcome abuse?


It’s true, he hurts me. He’s controlling, and it’s starting to really get me down. I should just leave.

But, I love him.

If you’ve ever had that conversation with yourself, you’ve probably wondered how it’s possible to love someone who hurts you. Is it even real love?

“Absolutely, it’s possible, and yes, it’s real love,” says Holly Richmond, Ph.D., a somatic psychologist and adjunct professor at John F. Kennedy University. “Love and abuse are not at all mutually exclusive.”

Richmond explains how love for your partner likely developed well before abuse was present or recognized: “In most cases, abuse doesn’t start right away. There were probably some red flags, sure, but it’s very common for those to get glossed over in all that new love, new passion energy,” she says.

And because the abuse wasn’t always there, you might have hope your relationship can outlast it and return to how it used to be. You may still love the person your abuser is when things aren’t violent, or even, odd as it may sound, when they are.

You’ve also built a shared history together and may feel you owe it to your partner or the relationship to stick it out. After all, that’s what we’re expected to do for love.

“I hear from patients all the time that when the relationship is good, it is so good,” Richmond says. “What they hang onto is those good times. The bad times are usually a smaller percentage of the relationship than the good.” So it can be easy to rationalize staying, waiting for the good times and hoping the bad times won’t happen again.

Can Love Conquer All?

Our society holds love in the highest regard. The saying, “love conquers all,” has been around since ancient Rome. And from a very young age we’re taught—girls, especially—love is the end-all, be-all. From fairy tales to romantic comedies, the ultimate prize is reinforced time and time again to be true love.

But it’s not ancient Rome or a romcom and love doesn’t always conquer all. Advocates wholeheartedly agree: Abuse is not something you can “love out of” your partner. Nor is it something you have to endure simply because you love them or are married to them. No one deserves to be abused, even if there is also love. Remember, abuse is the sole fault and decision of the abuser.

But I Can’t Just Stop Loving Someone

While it may seem as though falling out of love is something you can’t just choose to spontaneously do, it’s important to remember that love is an emotion, a feeling. And even though it can seem all encompassing, being in love is something you can turn off.

“Making yourself fall out of love—that is possible,” Richmond says. “Whether it just gets too bad or the relationship is toxic or hurtful, with time, you can fall out of love with someone for sure.”

Start by asking how much you love yourself. “Having greater awareness is important,” Richmond says. “Acknowledge it is very hard to leave. But ask yourself, ‘Am I more important than this? Are my children more important?’ Hopefully those answers come back as yes.”

Another technique Richmond recommends is writing a list of either pros and cons, or simply the cons about your partner. It can help you make an unclouded decision to leave and can also assist you in remembering why you left after you go.

“In your head, when you’re just thinking about it, you don’t think linearly,” she says. “Putting pen to paper and seeing that list can help. I can almost guarantee you the cons would outweigh the pros.”

Also consider talking to an advocate or therapist. Confiding in a friend might be helpful, but they may make you feel judged and aren’t equipped to deal with dangerous situations.

“Talk to someone who’s completely objective and can give feedback,” Richmond says. “It should be someone who can work with you on a safety plan. Even if you don’t think you need it, I tell my patients I don’t feel comfortable moving forward until we have a safety plan in place, just in case.”

If you do decide to leave, distance may be the best remedy for love. Sure, absence makes the heart grow fonder in certain situations. But absence can also offer clarity and help you see there is life for you beyond your abuser.

Does leaving seem overwhelming? There is a lot to think about. Start here: “When It’s Time to Go: Part I.”

Heels On For Her 2017

Join us October 20th 2017 at the Firelake Arena in Shawnee, Oklahoma for this great community awareness event for domestic violence. Men wearing heels in a timed obstacle course!! It’s a family friendly event with booths, games, emergency vehicles, awards ceremony, and a guest speaker.
You may also sponsor contenders competing by visiting
We’re also seeking members of the community in Pottawatomie & Lincoln Counties to join us in this obstacle course. Message us if you’re interested and we promise you’ll have a fun time bringing awareness to this great cause.
The last two years have been a success raising over $10,000 dollars to help multiple agencies complete community awareness campaigns, emergency services yearly awards, purchase of equipment and furniture for our One Safe Place Family Justice Center. We have a hope to help fund Domestic Violence Forensic Exams in the future and with this cause we can make these things possible.
Your business can sponsor this event and have your logo or individual name displayed proudly for all to see.
Exciting stuff! See you there!!!

2016 CCRT Domestic Violence Ceremony & Awards

District 23 CCRT held their Domestic Violence Awareness Ceremony & Awards at the Pottawatomie County Courthouse on October 28, 2016.  

Keynote speakers, Deb Stanaland and Connie Smothermon, delivered insight into the importance of coordinated community response to domestic violence, advancement of services to victims throughout the years, and the importance of further advocacy.  

Kenna Garrett of Pottawatomie County 911 Center and Christina Brown, Communications Manager for Shawnee Police Department, were honored as the 2016 District 23 Domestic Violence Dispatchers. Corporal Cody Gibson and Corporal Mike Myers of Shawnee Police Department received recognition as 2016 District 23 Domestic Violence Law Enforcement.  Officer Barry Manship of Shawnee Police Department received an award for 2016 District 23 Domestic Violence Advocate.  

Special guests included Pottawatomie County District Court Judge John Canavan, Special District Judges David Cawthon and Tracy McDaniel, Pottawatomie County Sheriff Mike Booth, District Attorney Richard Smothermon, and several law enforcement agencies and domestic violence advocates.

Oklahoma is fourth in the nation in number of women killed by men

Oklahoma is fourth in the nation in number of women killed by menOklahoma rose from sixth to fourth in a key report

A victim’s advocate for Domestic Violence Intervention Services holds a number of photos of beaten women in domestic violence cases. Tulsa World file

By Ginnie Graham News Columnist

DOCUMENT: Violence Police Center report 2016

Just as Oklahoma’s rate of deadly violence against women by men seemed to be improving, an annual report finds the state turning in the opposite direction.

Oklahoma has consistently ranked high in the annual Violence Policy Center report, which examines the states’ homicide rates of women killed by men. The data are based on two years prior to the reports, meaning this year’s ranking is for murders committed in 2014.

Oklahoma rose two spots this year to No. 4. Last year, the state had shown a slight improvement by moving from No. 3 to No. 6.

“It reflects the general problem in our society and what we are willing to accept,” said Donna Mathews, associate director at Domestic Violence Intervention Services in Tulsa. “Quite honestly, we don’t have enough advocates and case managers to help people. Law enforcement doesn’t have enough officers to investigate all the reports. … They have to prioritize them.”

Among the report’s findings for Oklahoma:

• Of the 38 Oklahoma women who were murdered by men in 2014, 32 were white, 4 were black and 2 were American Indian.

• The average age of victims was 39. About 3 percent of victims were younger than 18, and 3 percent were older than 65.

• In the homicides with an identifiable weapon, 65 percent of the women were shot with guns. Of the guns used, 82 percent were handguns. Nine women were killed with knives or other cutting instruments, and one woman was murdered by bodily force.

• In cases where the relationship of victim and killer could be identified, 86 percent of the women were killed by someone they knew. Five victims were murdered by strangers.

• Of the women who knew their killers, 56 percent were wives, common-law wives, ex-wives or girlfriends.

• In cases where the circumstances could be established, 71 percent were not related to other felonies. Of those, 50 percent involved arguments between the victim and offender.

“We have always been neck-and-neck at the top with other states,” Mathews said. “With what can be learned from the report, I like to look at the lowest 10 states to see what they are doing and we aren’t.”

Mathews said some changes are being made to improve the rate, such as an ongoing evaluation of the effectiveness of lethality assessments completed by first-responding officers on domestic calls who try to determine whether victims are at great risk of eventually being murdered by their partners.

Also, Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler created a special victims unit of prosecutors to specialize in these cases.

“That is a huge start, and we thank District Attorney Kunzweiler for doing that,” Mathews said. “All of this and everything we do is meant to prevent homicide. The sooner TPD and the DA take action, the better it is in preventing more serious crimes or homicides. But as a society we don’t put enough funds in for doing that. So we have to reach upcoming generations.”

DVIS has been working with schools and youth organizations to teach children and youths about healthy relationships.

Nationally, the rate of women murdered by men has dropped since 1996, the first year the Violence Policy Center started tracking cases by state. The rate has fallen from 1.57 per 100,000 women to 1.08 per 100,000 women.

The annual report began after the passage of the Violence Against Women Act, which turns 22 this year, and restrictions were placed on firearm possession by people with misdemeanor convictions for domestic violence or with protective orders for domestic violence.

“Since the passage of these laws, domestic violence has increasingly been treated as the serious problem that it is. States have also reformed their laws to better protect victims of domestic abuse and remove firearms from persons with histories of domestic violence,” the report states.

Deadly violence against women by men
Top 10 states

State Number of women victims Rate per 100,000 women

Alaska 11 3.15

Louisiana 51 2.15

Nevada 28 1.98

Oklahoma 38 1.94

South Carolina 43 1.73

New Mexico 18 1.71

South Dakota 7 1.65

Georgia 84 1.62

Tennessee 53 1.58

Texas 195 1.44

Lowest states

State Number of women victims Rate per 100,000 women

Illinois 16 0.24

North Dakota 1 0.28

Rhode Island 2 0.37

Massachusetts 13 0.37

Idaho 4 0.49

New York 63 0.62

Maine 5 0.74

Ohio 46 0.78

Montana 4 0.79

New Hampshire 7 0.89

Source: Violence Policy Center, based on 2014 homicides

Ginnie Graham


Twitter: @GinnieGraham

When the hands are around the neck, it’s a sign you have a killer on your hands


It took Carla Martin 20 days to die.

A security guard found the petite housekeeper on Sept. 3, unconscious and bleeding from the head in her apartment bedroom.

When police arrived, Tony Wilson told them that his wife hit her head two weeks ago, at work.

Doctors told investigators something different: She’d been struck twice by a blunt object.

Her medical team noticed something else, too.

Martin had brain trauma that suggested at some point, she’d been strangled, according to court documents.

The 54-year-old died Sept 23. Wilson has been charged with first-degree murder.

At a time when the Violence Policy Center ranks Oklahoma fourth in the nation in the rate of women killed by men, Martin’s death is a grim reminder that nonlethal strangulation makes homicide by an intimate partner seven times more likely, experts say.

“When the hands are around the neck, it’s a sign you have a killer on your hands,” said Gael Strack, the chief executive officer of the Training Institute of Strangulation Prevention. “There’s no going back. It’s only going to get worse from there.”

Missed signs

Victims don’t use the term “nonlethal strangulation.” They say they were choked, said Strack, whose California-based institute is a prominent voice concerning strangulation and its issues in the battle against domestic-violence.

Strack said few people — from victims to first responders — understand how serious being choked is.

In half of nonlethal strangulation cases, there are no outward signs that a person has been strangled, said Lauren Garder, shelter director for the YWCA Oklahoma City, the state’s largest provider of domestic violence shelter and prevention services.

Injuries are widely internal, Strack said. A choking victim might tell police or her doctor she is OK, but the reality is that it takes very little to cause severe injury, and the subtle signs are easy to miss.

“Strangulation is really scary, particularly, because it doesn’t leave markings or indications unless it’s very severe,” Garder said.

Rhonda McKinney is a sexual assault nurse examiner for the local YWCA whose patients have often experienced domestic violence, including strangulation.

“Once you’re strangled, no matter how severe it is, you’re at risk of dying from it for up to two weeks after your injury,” McKinney said. “You can be strangled, be discharged, and three or four days later die from delayed internal swelling and trauma to the structures in the neck.”

The YWCA dispatches forensic nurses like McKinney to administer sexual assault and domestic violence exams at health care centers throughout metropolitan area. Between July 2015 and June 2016, YWCA nurses recorded 88 instances of strangulation while helping patients who had been sexually assaulted or experienced other forms of domestic violence.

Those who have been strangled are also more likely to suffer stroke or progressive dementia at an early age, McKinney said. Even milder cases of strangulation can lead to depression, anxiety, amnesia and PTSD.

There is a growing body of evidence that links domestic violence, including strangulation, to traumatic brain injury, Strack said.

Making progress

Strack said Oklahoma communities are making progress when it comes to recognizing strangulation as a lethal marker and a serious health issue, but more could be done, and faster.

Family Justice Centers in Tulsa, Shawnee and Oklahoma City, she said, are a big step in the right direction. At Family Justice Centers, victims of domestic violence can access the myriad services under one roof. It’s common that domestic violence victims faced with the daunting task of navigating the services available to them will give up, Strack said. Oklahoma City’s Family Justice Center is slated to open in late fall in the former Northcare facility, 1140 N Hudson Ave.

Dispatchers, paramedics, police, nurses and doctors, attorneys, even the victims themselves, often do not understand how serious strangulation is, Strack said. That’s something she learned while reviewing hundreds of homicide cases of women in San Diego, Calif. as an assistant prosecutor in the mid 1990s. Strangulation proved to be a critical marker leading up to these deaths.

Multidisciplinary training can help bring awareness to the health dangers of nonlethal strangulation and its ties to homicide.

Strack and Casey Gwinn, the co-founder of the Training Institute, travel the country helping communities use existing tools to work smarter and develop more multidisciplinary teams to tackle the issue.

In states like Arizona, which has seen its domestic violence murders drop, it appears the efforts are paying off, Strack said.

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office has started to work with a health care system in instituting the use of high-tech cameras that can show broken capillaries in the lips, on the neck and around the eye, all signs of strangulation. The otherwise hard-to-collect evidence has been used to prosecute perpetrators of domestic violence.

The Training Institute did a four-day training in Shawnee, but has not worked in any other Oklahoma communities, Strack said.

Violence continues

In the meantime, the violence against Oklahoma women continues.

The Oklahoma City Police Department received 35,603 domestic violence-related 911 calls in 2015, said Capt. Juan Balderrama, the department’s spokesman.

Eighty five percent of domestic violence victims are women, said Garder, the YWCA Oklahoma City shelter director.

As Carla Martin, the woman who died on Sept. 23, lie in a coma at OU Medical Center, Moore police were called to the home of Jillian Riddle, 31, on Sept. 19.

They found Riddle dead on the floor of the home she shared with her boyfriend, Bobby Lee Rogers. Police said she’d been strangled; the state medical examiner ruled she died of a broken neck and a laceration to her liver.

Rogers has been charged with first- degree murder in connection with her death.

“I think there’s always more we can do to help victims of domestic violence going through abusive situations,” Strack said.

Getting help

Individuals in an abusive relationship or who have been sexually assaulted, victims of stalking and human trafficking, or those who know someone who needs help can call the 24-hour Safeline: (800) 522-SAFE (7233).