By Jessica Bruha
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Norman Police Department’s My Body, My Life program has been around since the ’90s. Tonight, it will be recognized with the Human Rights Award by the Norman City Council.
The council’s weekly meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Municipal Building Council Chambers. The Human Rights Award is presented to an individual or organization every year after the Human Rights Commission selects the award recipient.
“I’m extremely flattered and honored,” said Sgt. Robert “Bob” Moore, who helped create and develop the My Body, My Life program. “I really appreciate them recognizing the level of our efforts.”
The program was nominated for the award by Longfellow Middle School counselor Michelle Sutherlin, who wrote in her nomination letter that she was honored to be part of the amazing program.
“I believe there is no better program in Norman that promotes human rights and equality than the My Body, My Life Program” Sutherlin wrote in the letter.
The Human Rights Commission seeks to promote and encourage fair treatment and mutual understanding among all citizens to combat all prejudice, bigotry and discrimination that prevent individuals from reaching their full potential as human beings.
“Most importantly, this class empowers women to take control of their own body and their own life, the very essence of human rights and equality. I have seen students enter the class who have never stood up for themselves and what is right for them, leave the class with their heads held higher and with complete confidence they could say an adamant ‘NO!’ in a situation that compromised their rights,” she wrote.
The program got started when Moore and a former Norman Public Schools principal Darien Moore sought to create a class to address the issues of improper relationships some high school students were involved in.
The program, which began in Norman’s only high school at the time, later was offered at middle schools and now helps empower women of all ages through awareness, education, violence prevention and self-defense techniques.
Moore said they now offer the program at every Norman school. Classes for adult women also are hosted at Norman Regional Hospital. The program serves women ages 13 to 91, he said.
“I have also never been in a class when a student didn’t disclose something that compromised their rights, whether it be rape, sexual abuse, fear of another person or sexual promiscuity. Each time this happened, the student didn’t have the courage to report the issue before the class, but the class promoted their own human rights, and they had the courage to report,” Sutherlin wrote.
Police Chief Keith Humphrey said it’s great that a program focusing on empowering young women is being recognized.
“It’s another opportunity for us to work with the public and empower the public where they can reduce their chances of becoming a victim and becoming more of a survivor,” Humphrey said. “It lets them know that it’s OK to report. They have nothing to be ashamed of, and we want them to know when to report crimes and how to report it.”
Moore said they are lucky to have such great support from Humphrey.
“I cannot say enough about the chief of police. He’s community-oriented, he’s backed us fully in taking this program as far as it can go,” Moore said. “I’ve always wanted to make a difference, and this is it.”
MPO Marcus Savage, who also has helped develop and instruct the program, said education is a big part of prevention.
“Sometimes it’s not just police work that goes into this. We try to get information out there to prevent crimes,” he said.
Savage said he’s excited about the program receiving the award.
“I’m glad that it’s viewed as something that would be deemed so great to get this honor,” he said.
Sutherlin also wrote in her nomination letter that the officers who teach the class are committed to changing lives through preventative measures.
“Sgt. Moore, MPO Savage, Officers Carl Pendleton and Glenda Vassar, as well as other officers, work together to teach students in seventh grade through adult women on how to be empowered and how to take control of their own lives,” Sutherlin wrote. “This group is extremely deserving.”
Moore also said he believes it’s important for males to be educated, as well. Stemming from the women’s program, Moore helped create a male program to try to help boys and men understand how important it is for a man at any age to treat a woman in the most appropriate way.
Males also can be victims and are educated about how to handle situations in which they are the victim.
Moore said none of this would be possible without the support from their chief and all of the officers who help with the program.
“I couldn’t do this program by myself,” he said. “They are a great bunch of people.”
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