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'Just the start': Domestic violence survivors react to new law

Posted at 6:28 PM, May 22, 2024

Senate Bill 1835, also known as the Oklahoma Survivors Act, made it to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s desk again and this time he signed it into law.

The legislation adds protections to domestic violence survivors who commit violent crimes against their abusers.

The Survivor’s Act will direct courts to consider mental, physical, and psychological abuse a victim endured before laying down a sentence for their own crimes.

WATCH more about the Survivor's Act:

Senate Votes to Override Governor's Veto on Oklahoma Survivors' Act

This allows for lighter sentences for survivors of domestic violence in the future, and gives hope to those already incarcerated for similar crimes.

With Oklahoma’s statistics surrounding violence, Rosario Chico, a survivor of domestic violence, believes this is a step in the right direction.

“I think our state is very aware that changes need to happen,” said Chico. “I’m very hopeful, seeing that the Oklahoma Survivors Act got passed, that there’s going to be a lot more changes coming to Oklahoma, and I think it’s just the start because it needs to change at every level.”

Rosario Chico Domestic Violence Survivor

Using the word ‘survivor’ isn’t something Chico said feels right for her. Instead, she chooses the word ‘victim’ because she continues to fight her abuser even though she’s no longer with him.

“I haven’t had my children since January 13 of 22, so over two years, and my children still continue to disclose abuse,” said Chico. “And what’s so sad is my children are longing for me now, so it’s almost like I did what I thought was the right thing to do, and it’s a catch-22.”

Chico reported her abuse to numerous agencies, but the blame was turned on her.

She removed her children from what she called an abusive situation, but instead of her abuser being arrested, Chico was at a domestic violence shelter.

Chico said she continues to be prosecuted for ‘child stealing’ for trying to keep her children safe.

While Chico found a physical escape without fighting back, she’s aware that many others in abusive relationships see violence as their only way out.

A first draft of the legislation, Senate Bill 1470, passed by both the Oklahoma House of Representatives and the Senate before Gov. Stitt vetoed it.
He said the language wasn’t tight enough and would have allowed for any criminal to ask for a lesser sentence for any trauma they encountered at any point in their life.

The language was reworked to only include domestic violence offenses. Survivors also have to prove their abuse in court before it can be used to reduce a sentence in a court of law.

The bill passed through the Senate on May 17. Stitt said in a press conference that same day that he intended to sign the legislation into law after the wording changes.

Protections with the law will go into effect in August.

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