Ford Studies Ways to Help Domestic Violence Victims
OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Ross Ford, R-Broken Arrow, this week held an interim study on finding ways to better assist domestic violence victims and to address the generational impact of such abuse. IS23-051 was heard Wednesday by the House Judiciary – Criminal Committee. "As a former police officer, I unfortunately saw too many victims caught in the heartbreaking cycle of domestic violence," Ford said. "I've long have wanted to find ways to stop the devastation I witnessed and to break this destructive cycle. "My hope was by gathering numerous subject-matter experts, we can help understand the patterns that lead to this abuse, which can often be generational, and to find adequate ways to improve our support of victims while prosecuting the perpetrators of these crimes. "I'm grateful to the presenters who helped each of us have a much fuller understanding of why domestic violence exists and policies we can consider that will better help victims and stop this cycle going forward." Presenters at the study included several women who shared insight from a victim's perspective. Angie Bowker-Felts spoke on the generational cycle of abuse and its impact, and Heather Crosley-Simon presented "sin by silence: a family's tragedy." Current investigative methods and their impact on Oklahomans as well as potential improvements were shared by Joshua Patzkowski, a special agent and liaison for missing and murdered indigenous people with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI); Lt. Amanda Miller, assistant special agent in charge at OSBI; and Stacey Todd, assistant United States attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma who works in the Special Victims Unit and on child exploitation cases. Discussing domestic violence statistics for Oklahoma were Anthony Hernandez Rivera, who service as program manager for the Victim Services Unit with the Oklahoma attorney general's office; and Susan Laib, director of the Victim Advocacy and Service Unit with the Oklahoma attorney general's office. Addressing intimate partner violence and systemic change were Kendra Zoellner, PhD and an associate professor of social work at Northeastern State University; and Gloria Miller, a founder of Community Faculty with the University of Oklahoma. Brandi Woods-Littlejohn, program manager for personal health and rape prevention with the Oklahoma State Department of Health, spoke on healthy relationships. Ashley Nix, director of the Special Victims Unit with the Tulsa County district attorney's office, detailed expanding services, protections and prevention. Kasey Magness, a forensic nurse administrator with the Tulsa Police Department, spoke about the benefits of proper examinations and care and how this can support the work of district attorneys in helping to enhance punishments for perpetrators of this crime. Matthew E. Level, director of operations for the Court Assistance Program, discussed deficiencies in the current system for mental health and substance abuse defendants. Domestic violence in Tulsa County and ways to improve were addressed by Suzann Stewart, executive director of the Family Safety Center; and Lori Aery Gonzales, vice president of advocacy services for Domestic Violence Intervention Services. Presenting on the topic of breaking the cycle of domestic abuse were three executives from Palomar OKC: Kim Garrett, chief visionary officer and founder; Hillary Burkholder, chief executive officer; and Anden Bull, chief operating officer. Closing remarks were provided by Rep. Ford and Committee Chairman Rep. Rande Worthen, R-Lawton.