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

918-581-8376

ginnie.graham@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @GinnieGraham