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INVESTIGATES: Domestic strangulation laws in Oklahoma

Posted at 8:00 PM, Jan 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-06 08:33:27-05

“I thought, he's going to kill me.”

That was the thought running through “Hope’s” mind all those years ago.

She’s a domestic strangulation survivor here in Oklahoma.

Domestic strangulation is a violent crime for those who experience it but it's not considered a violent crime by the state statute.

“I remember he grabbed me by the neck and the next thing I knew the room was dark and my head was pounding and I didn't even know where I was.” Says Hope.

For 20 years Hope seemed like a happily married woman.

She was an educator and a loving mother.

Behind closed doors, it was a different story.

Hope was beaten, strangled and psychologically abused over and over again for two decades.

“If you. (pause) I'm sorry. (pause) If you haven't lived it. You don't understand it.” Says Hope, in an emotional moment.

“There were other times in our marriage that he would grab me by the neck and hold me down on the bed or pick me up and hold me against the wall by his hands and I just always remember thinking there was like dizziness with that. But again, with that, I would go look in the mirror and I thought well there's no marks. There's nothing.” She recounts.

“In that moment, every time that happened he was saying, right now I am in control and I have the control to kill you.” Says Hope.

In Oklahoma, domestic assault strangulation is now a felony but is still not considered a violent crime.

The sentence is typically 1 to 3 years behind bars and abusers are not required to serve 85 percent of their time, meaning they typically get out of jail within months of a conviction.

"I consider it a violent crime but by statute is not a violent crime." Says Lt. Clay Asbill with the Tulsa Police department.

Lt. Asbill says victims could pay the ultimate price.

“Strangulation in and of itself is dangerous. We've had two this year, two of our domestic homicides - we've had 12 so far this year - but two of them have died from strangulation” says Lt. Asbill.

That's why Broken Arrow state Representative Ross Ford is working to change the way the Oklahoma law is written.

“On the domestic violence strangulation what I'm looking for is to strengthen the state statute so that one, it will give victims more feeling of that connection with police to we care and that we want to help by being able to help them during this time of need.” Says Ford.

Ford is working with other state law-makers this session to toughen the penalty...

“We need to change that to make it to where people know that it's a violent crime and that maybe it will go a little bit further to make someone think twice about before they lay hands on a, on their spouse.”

Representative Ford is just one part of the overall solution.

Lt. Clay Asbill launched the domestic strangulation initiative in 2017 in partnership with other law enforcement agencies in Tulsa county.

They've already seen an impact in the number of victims seeking help.

“We've definitely made more arrests. We've got more people coming in for services. There's a lot more suspects being charged for strangulation, but again, it'll take time." Says Lt. Asbill.

Tulsa police and law enforcement pass out an information card to victims during domestic violence calls.

It details the symptoms of strangulation and where to find help.

It was a little card with resources on it like that one that eventually saved Hope.

“I didn't know that there was anybody out there to help me. I was just trying everyday minute by minute to survive.” Says Hope.

Through it, she found DVIS, the Family Safety Center, an attorney and the courage she needed.

“Where I didn't have to face the monster by myself and that's how I felt .” says hope.

She says even with all of that, it still took her years to finally make it out.

“About ten years. I left 12 times.” She says.

Hope never testified against her abuser and his charges were eventually dropped.

However, it’s because of those resources she was able to escape.

She often wonders if she had gone through with those charges what would have happened to her abuser?

She wonders if justice would have been served with the way the law is currently written.

“It shouldn't be less of a consequence because that's your spouse. I'm excited to know that there are lawmakers who are giving these things the extra thought and attention that they need.” Says Hope.

She tells us, “If we want to put a stop to it to the things that are happening that's where the change has to be.”

If you or someone you know needs help:

Signs of strangulation and who to contact

Family Safety Center

24-hour emergency number:

8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Monday through Friday
600 Civic Center, Main Floor Police Courts Building
Tulsa, OK 74103
Phone: 918-742-7480

Contact: Suzann Stewart, Executive Director,, (918) 574-2900 (direct); (918) 742-7480 (main) ext. 104

Mailing Address: Family Safety Center, Police Courts Building, 600 Civic Center, Suite 103, Tulsa, OK 74103-3822

DVIS- Domestic Violence Intervention Services

24-Hour Information & Crisis Line

phone: (918.743.5763)

Address: 3124 E. Apache St. Tulsa, OK 74110

more info

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