Tulsa County seeing large increase in permanent victim protective orders
TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) —
It could be described as just a piece of paper, a victim protective order. However, for one victim of domestic violence, it was her ticket out of an abusive relationship.
“How many times did you try to leave and end up coming back?” asked Channel 8’s I-team.
“I can’t even tell you, I don’t know,” said the woman, who we’re not identifying.
Tulsa County is seeing a huge increase in permanent victim protective orders. In 2016, Tulsa County issued 86 percent more permanent victim protective orders compared to 2015. For victims, it can take years before a judge grants a permanent victim protective order.
“It took two years to finally make it a permanent protective order. We lived under temporary protective orders for two years almost exactly,” said the woman.
The journey to get a permanent VPO is a long and complicated one. First of all, deputies like Michael Roda have to find the person listed on the protective order.
“I get the ones with addresses, but I also get the ones without,” said Deputy Roda, with the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office.
If Deputy Roda can’t find them, it’s up to the victim to file a new emergency protective order every two weeks.
“Until you can’t get off work, can’t get child care, or can’t find a place to park at the courthouse,” said Donna Mathews with Domestic Violence Intervention Services, or DVIS. “(Getting a VPO) is a very trying process for people when the defendant is difficult to serve.”
Matthews said sometimes a piece of paper is all that’s needed to stop an abuser. However, for the woman who was interviewed by the I-team, that wasn’t the case. Her abuser had 11 protective order violations before a warrant was issued.
“Every time I would call police, I felt like I had to convince somebody that I didn’t just get my protective order because I was mad, I got it because I needed it,” she said.
In 2016, there were 13 percent more violations of protective orders compared to the year before. Though they’re reaching more people at DVIS, Matthews said understaffed law enforcement and a complicated court system often stand in the way of victims. According to DVIS, detectives in the TPD Family Violence Unit get 500 cases a month. Those cases include felony domestic cases, misdemeanor domestic cases, and violations of existing protective orders. There are only around 5-6 detectives to handle those cases, according to officials.
“They are at least 100 police officers short on the street in Tulsa,” said Mathews.
“When you lose everything, you have to believe in something because that’s all you have,” said the woman.
It was her belief in herself that helped transform her from a victim to a survivor.
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