OKLAHOMA CITY - The state of Oklahoma took a step toward curbing domestic violence Monday with the passing of a measure designed to better protect victims.
Gov. Mary Fallin signed House Bill 1912 into law Monday morning. Under the legislation, alleged victims of domestic abuse will no longer be required to seek legal sanctions, like divorce or separation, in order to receive a protective order hearing.
SEE THE BILL (http://bit.ly/HB1912)
Jennifer McLaughlin, director of professional development for the Oklahoma Coalition for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, says by making it easier for victims to be heard, the state will be saving lives.
"We definitely believe that [HB 1912] will help victims be safer," she said. "Filing for divorce could put victims in bigger danger and could set off an abuser."
House Speaker T.W. Shannon, who authored the bill, says its approval was a matter of life and death. "In my estimation, this is a pro-life issue, and we must value life at all stages," said Shannon, R-Lawton. "We cannot ignore victims of domestic violence and pretend that the current law is sufficient to protect them; it clearly is not."
Several other statutes within the bill will serve to strengthen victims' rights, including the ability of the plaintiff to undergo treatment at the defendant's expense if the court deems it appropriate.
In 2011, 114 people died in Oklahoma as a result of domestic abuse. Only seven percent had a prior domestic violence conviction.
MORE: Click the image below for additional 2011 statistics. Mobile users can access the study here (http://bit.ly/12c9vLU).
Two cases of reported abuse in the Tulsa-area happened over the weekend, including one involving an Oral Roberts basketball player accused of beating his pregnant girlfriend.
READ: 'Cops: Roundtree arrested, accused of assault' (http://bit.ly/ORUpregnant)
Protective orders can be found on the Oklahoma State Courts Network website (http://bit.ly/107g7MV). House Bill 1912 will go into effect Nov. 1.