Norman residents should push their state lawmakers to approve legislation that would classify domestic assault and battery a violent crime, two experts said Wednesday.
Currently, domestic assault and battery is regarded as a non-violent offense with punishments that range from one to three years in prison. State Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, has proposed Senate Bill 1104 which would make the crime a violent crime and carry with it a punishment of up to 10 years in prison. The measure also strikes a punishment alternative of one year in the county jail.
SB 1104 would also require defendants convicted of domestic assault and battery and domestic assault and battery of a pregnant woman to serve 85% of their prison sentence.
Candida Manion, executive director of the Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Awareness, talked to women at a forum hosted by Women in Action for All. The event was held at St. Stephens United Methodist Church in Norman. Manion was joined by her colleague, Mackenzie Masilon, the coalition's public policy and communications director.
The two women believe that type of legislation will help the domestic violence cause and place the issue at the forefront of public discussions. About 800 to 1,000 domestic abuse victims in Oklahoma call for help every day, Manion said.
"They're calling about a variety of issues," she said.
However, about 100 people a day are being turned away because of a lack of resources, especially in rural Oklahoma where women's shelters are almost non-existent.
Another legislative proposal introduced by Rep. Ross Ford would enhance the punishment for people convicted of domestic assault and battery by strangulation or attempted strangulation. The measure would increase the maximum prison sentence to 10 years for the first offense. A second and subsequent conviction would raise the maximum prison term to 20 years.
Manion and Masilon also urged the forum attendees to exercise caution when considering their vote on State Question 805, a proposed constitutional amendment that would prohibit enhanced prison terms for people convicted of repeat non-violent crimes.
"Watch out for the unintended consequences of 805," Masilon said. "Our goal is victim safety. Be careful what you vote for."
However, victim safety is at risk if domestic violence crimes are not classified as violent offenses, Manion said.
"I don't care what your reasoning is. It's not OK to punch another human being," she said. "The dynamics need to change not only for the victims of today, but for people in the future."