The McIntosh County Democrat hosted another successful Domestic Violence Awareness Chalk Walk on Monday, Oct. 16 at the Checotah Sports Complex. Survivors, along with several help groups, showed up to talk about domestic abuse within our county and state and the importance of bringing awareness to the community.
Organizer and office manager of the McIntosh County Democrat LaDonna Rhodes spoke briefly about the heartbreak of being a survivor then watching her classmates and even daughter suffer from abusive relationships. This is why the Chalk Walk is so important to give victims a voice.
Kendra Russell, shelter director of WISH in Muskogee, knows too well what victims go through in domestic abuse relationships, because she is also a survivor. Before the awareness walk she shared some statistics on domestic violence in Oklahoma.
“Oklahoma is now ranked highest in the nation for domestic violence for men and women,” Lee said. “Oklahoma is third in the United States for the number of woman killed by their significant other. At least 50 percent of Oklahomans will experience some kind of domestic violence in their lives. 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of domestic violence by an intimate partner. On a typical day, domestic violence hotlines nationwide receive approximately 21,000 calls. That’s why it’s so important for the community to know about the available resources in our area and to support these survivors. We are here to help.”
Russell also went on to say that if someone is strangled by a partner, they have a 750% more likelihood of being murdered by that partner.
“Without intervention, 78% of kids that are abused or grow up in an abusive home will grow up to become an abuser or will get into violent relationships. This is why awareness is so vital to our communities. I’m afraid as more children in America watch family violence occur in their own homes, and when they watch people that supposedly love each other be brutal to each other, then they are going to accept it as a way of life.”
Checotah Project AWARE counselor Kendall Jones who also spoke at the Chalk Walk agrees that there is a great need to provide the younger generation with more education on mental health awareness when it comes to domestic abuse. The AWARE Project is a fiveyear grant program that helps Jones and community manager Shawnna Wilhite bring awareness of mental health issues to the community and to the schools.
“Mostly the kids that I see are middle school and high school level,” Jones said. “We deal with dating violence and violence in the home. A lot of times this is the trauma that kids have been through so we work with the kids and families to get through the things that they have seen and hopefully break the cycles of abuse. We also partner with Green Country Behavioral Health to get them out patient services to deal with all these issues.”
Ella Mitchell with Muscogee Creek Nation Center for Victim Services also introduced her new coworkers who are housed in Okmulgee and Eufaula and stated that their services are for anyone, native or not, who has suffered abuse in McIntosh County or the surrounding counties. Their slogan speaks for itself, “Violence is not our tradition.”
Perhaps the most moving speaker of the Chalk Walk was survivor Deborah Hughes, who suffered a violent attack from her partner in June, 2017.
“I was taken against my will by my boyfriend and driven around for over four hours as he beat me on back dirt roads. When I tried to take off my seatbelt and jump out, that’s when he spun my arm around and punched it, breaking my humerus. He pulled out my hair and beat the left side of my body until I was black and blue. He even bit a piece of my cheek off and broke my phone so I couldn’t call for help. When he backhanded me and my nose started bleeding profusely something said ‘the blood is your friend’ and I started throwing my blood all over the car. I even rubbed it into his beard as I told him that they will find me unlike his sister that is still missing. That’s when he finally drove me home and kicked me out of the car. My then 17-yearold daughter took me to a neighbor that was a nurse and she called the police. I was in the hospital for three days but I still survived. Now I speak up about domestic violence and I do events like this to heal and help other women know that there’s help and hope.”
Hughes also spoke about “why women stay.” When so many can’t understand why a woman would stay in an abusive situation, there are many reasons she might stay or go back to her abuser.
Here are the top five reasons women stay: 1. Fear – Attempting to leave an abuser is dangerous. The threat of bodily and emotional harm is very powerful and often keeps women trapped in fear of worse harm to include their children or other family members.
2. Children – Women will often sacrifice their own safety and sanity for the benefit of the children. They stay believing that they are protecting their children from receiving the abuse.
3. Damages Self-Worth – Women are often confused, embarrassed, ashamed and blamed. They are not just beaten down physically but emotionally to believe they are worthless and deserve the abuse.
4. Financial Constraints – Many abused women have financial limitations and limited resources. Often they haven’t been able to keep a job due to their injuries or the abuser’s control.
5. Family Expectations – Many women, due to past experiences with violence, have a distorted sense of what a healthy relationship looks like. Some are even pressured by religion to stay with their abusive spouse because divorce is frowned upon in the church.
However, Hughes wanted to express the importance of still supporting victims even if they go back to their abusers because it’s vital for their survival.
“It’s hard especially in a small town where everyone knows everyone. But keep encouraging victims that they are worthy of a healthy relationship.”
The McIntosh County Democrat would like to thank everyone who came out to the Chalk Walk, including Mayor Daniel Tarkington, Mc-Intosh County Sheriff Kevin Ledbetter, City Councilman Mike Key and Checotah PD.
Special thanks to the Chamber of Commerce for providing bottled water and Westside Gas Co. for provided snacks and chalk for the event.
The Oklahoma Domestic Violence hotline, (800) 522-SAFE (7233), provides assistance with safety planning, crisis intervention, emergency shelter and advocacy to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking.