Issue 2, September 2014

A Joint Statement on the Ray Rice incident by FSC Executive Director 

Suzann Stewart, TPD Chief Chuck Jordan and FSC Board Chairman Lynn Jones


A 50-year-old survivor of strangulation has visited court multiple times for emergency protective orders against her husband. She has been issued several as the assaults have escalated, but never follows through pursuing a permanent order. The fiancé of a prominent pro athlete is knocked unconscious in a publicly reviewed video, but ultimately marries her abuser. A young Hispanic mom with two kids files for a protective order but returns to her husband, and is subsequently murdered. What do these folks have in common? Abusive relationships and a single question ... why didn't she just leave? 


There is no one who has seen the video of Ray Rice delivering the knock-out punch to his then pregnant fiancé not electrified by the event. It was horrible to watch second hand. Imagine how it felt to be the one to experience it in person.  Picture that and worse happening every day in families around our community. More than 4,000 protective orders were issued in Tulsa County last year. Oklahoma is ranked third in number of women killed by men according to the recently released Violence Policy Center (Washington DC) report for 2012. In the 2013 report released by the Oklahoma Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board, out of 88 victims, women and men of all ages, only five accessed any type of victim services before they were murdered. 


Family violence is a horrendous societal problem that degrades the physical and emotional health of the family and the entire community and affects both for generations to come. As a community, we have to stand together in a non-yielding posture of zero tolerance.


We know that it takes many resources for survivors to make the decision to leave - money, housing, jobs, childcare. We understand not wanting to move your child to a new school, or how difficult it may be for a vulnerable adult to find services geared to special needs. In Tulsa County we have not only taken a stand against accepting the status quo-with law enforcement including city police departments and Sheriff Stanley Glanz, 14th District Court, District Attorney Tim Harris, City of Tulsa, Tulsa County, DVIS/Call Rape, RSVP, Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry, the YWCA, Legal Aid Services and other related organizations -but have also taken positive steps to make sure the many resources needed to keep victims and families safe are available and offenders held accountable.


Since 2006, Tulsa's Family Safety Center has provided protection, hope and healing to our most vulnerable citizens by providing many resources under one roof. Of the 2,400 individuals who visited the FSC for services in 2013 or were helped by our High Lethality Rapid Intervention Team, not a single person was murdered. This collaboration of integrated services is only the tip of the iceberg in addressing this issue. 


New statewide legislation based on successful trials by the Tulsa, Broken Arrow and OKC police departments will require all peace officers responding to 911 domestic violence calls to conduct onsite danger assessments, and to provide immediate resource information. The District Attorney's office uses evidence-based prosecution to try cases in which the victim may be unwilling or unable to participate. The 14th District Court is now re-organizing misdemeanor domestic violence dockets to streamline processes for victims and to better monitor offenders in collaboration between the justice system and our local community to effectively respond to domestic violence and enhance victim and child safety. It will be less stressful for families, more economical for the courts, and more effective in holding offenders accountable.


Tulsa is serious about breaking the cycle of violence that leads children to become adults who batter or remain victims. The dialogue needs to continue with much insight and input from survivors, advocates, law enforcement, the judiciary, our fellow citizens and the philanthropic community in addressing this subject for our future. 


Unlike the NFL we don't have the luxury of waiting to review tapes to make our decisions on the health and safety of our citizens. Domestic violence needs our immediate attention to prevent further victimizations which we know can include death.


If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, come to the Family Safety Center (600 Civic Center). Let's not wait to see it on social media to determine the extent of "the damage." You don't have to stay in an abusive relationship; you don't have to die before anyone cares.


If you need immediate help, call DVIS' 24-hour crisis line (918.643.5763) to speak with a trained advocate.


TPD Chief Chuck Jordan chairs the FSC Leadership Council of agency and government chief executives partnering in the Family Safety Center.  Lynn Jones, retired Major, TPD, is the chair of the board of directors of the Family Safety Center. 


"It's not like working at a private law firm where 
you can go to lunch and the world isn't going to end."
- Cindy Cunningham, Director of Legal Advocacy, Interim DVIS Shelter Director - DVIS/Call Rape Inc.
Left: Cindy Cunningham, Director of Legal Advocacy for DVIS/Call Rape Inc. Right: Elaine Dunlap, FSC embedded family law attorney,  Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma

Cindy Cunningham knows that when you're in the business of DV you do whatever needs to be done at the time. She recently returned to the Family Safety Center after helping out at the DVIS shelter where she wore many hats, including serving meals. "At the shelter, when you're living with clients, you have to respond to the needs at the time," said Cindy. "Client needs are timeless and constant whether at FSC or at the shelter, they all need the same things: safety planning, protective orders, legal representation, food, clothes, shelter and medical care." 

"We are constantly working to make sure that people know about us and the services we offer here. We're really trying to work on the case load numbers of the attorneys ... right now each attorney averages about 25 cases, I think everybody can handle more cases than that, but you have to balance that out when you have a DV case that can take an unusual amount of time due to all of the issues, and many of our cases are pretty time consuming. Also, they can be criminal cases as well. Then the emergency custody situations are a whole other thing."

"We're always trying to look at improvement of services from everything from how easy our forms are to fill out to what are we not doing for clients ... it's a constant process of self-examination. We are very involved in and excited about the creation of the integrated domestic violence court which will kick off in October. We're also excited about a grant we received that covers a full time attorney to handle protective orders. Usually when people come here they've decided they want an EPO, but maybe what they haven't done is reflect on what possible negative consequences could result from that decision. That's why safety assessment and planning is absolutely critical."

"One of the biggest challenges is that we never have enough time. There are lots of days when you have no control over your day. You don't know how many people will walk through the door or what their needs are going to be. It's not like working at a private law firm where you know that you can go to lunch and the world isn't going to end. We have to be flexible and open to what the day brings us. The 'quiet room' was one of our dream requests where you could just go and sit. Sometimes I find it helps to walk over to the post office, just take a few minutes and go for a short walk, or just shut my door. One big change I've noticed since being in the new facility though is that even on really hectic and crazy days, it's so beautiful and exudes an atmosphere of peace and calm."

Elaine Dunlap, FSC's embedded family law attorney from Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, knew while she was going to law school that a private firm was not for her. "I always wanted to work in a social services agency setting and connect my law degree to helping people in some way, so this job was a perfect fit for me. It was so tailored to what I wanted to do and I was so lucky to have found it so soon after graduating," said Elaine. "I enjoy being able to serve people who can't afford to pay legal fees ... I hated bill collecting when I worked at a private law firm!"

Legal Aid became a new FSC partner agency last January, allowing the FSC to provide more legal services to clients. Elaine is the first stop for people who have immediate legal needs, whether it's a family case, housing issue, child support or any number of situations. "It's very important to have accessible legal assessment to victims and survivors of DV, sexual assault and stalking," said Elaine. "This is a person who has the courage to leave the situation and they don't know what steps to take. They need guidance on what they do next. It gives them peace of mind to just have the knowledge about how the process works. For people who are wavering, it helps them to make the decision safely. Sometimes money is what holds people back, so I'm glad that we are here to tell them about free or reduced legal help even if we can't take their case. I handle about 30 cases a month, and am available to sit down with clients who have legal questions for the advocates." Elaine has been at the FSC since April of this year.

FSC legal services save lives.
  • FSC Legal Assistance, including Domestic Violence Intervention Services (DVIS/Call Rape) andLegal Aid Services of Oklahoma (LAOK)have served 323 FSC clients with civil legal assistance in 2014. This is a 60% increase over service assistance during the same time period in 2013.
  • Additionally, FSC receives "grants to encourage arrest and enforcement of protective orders" from the Department of Justice that fund the High Risk Rapid Intervention Team. Through this grant, DVIS/Call Rape provides a Protective Order (PO) Court Attorney who in the first six months of 2014 made 98 court appearances with high risk survivors. Overall, 73 out of the 86 victims (84.9%) assisted by the PO Attorney were granted the protective order he or she requested, either temporary or permanent, or the relief from the court that he or she requested.

Most importantly, no FSC clients receiving services 
lost their life to violence in the past 12 months. 




Family Legal Issues Lunch and Learn Series

FSC hosts a monthly series of meetings designed to bring awareness, understanding and solutions for domestic violence survivors about civil legal actions and proceedings. The meetings feature brief, expert presentations providing time for questions and answers. Register by calling 918-742-7480 or 918-574-2901. 

Thursday, October 16: Divorce
Thursday, October 30: Child Custody
Thursday, November 13: Child Support
Thursday, December 4: Family Court Services

Volunteer-U Training (Location in FSC Conference Room or Courtroom)
Monday, September 22: Courtroom Advocacy
Friday, September 26: FSC Orientation
Friday, October 17: Advocacy and Crisis Counseling
Friday, December 5: Courtroom Advocacy


 13% of FSC's clients are Spanish speaking only 

and receive translation assistance 


Deisy Rameriz is one of three Spanish translators available at the Family Safety Center. She not only speaks the language but also understands the Hispanic culture and

Deisy Rameriz is one of three FSC Spanish translators and is also Pennie's co-pilot 
at the reception desk

family dynamics, which is a huge benefit to clients.


"In most Hispanic families, the women stay home, so they don't have an income or any way of sustaining themselves or their families ... they can't pay their bills, so they are more hesitant to come forward," says Deisy. "Also, Catholicism plays a big role and they believe they are betraying their religion by leaving that person."


Deisy says it is more difficult for Spanish-speaking clients to go to a shelter, due to the language barrier. Some are undocumented, and are afraid of deportation if they come forward. "They are afraid to ask the police for help," says Deisy. "Women seeking help don't get deported, but sometimes the abuser does. Many of those clients will dig through their purse when we ask them for an ID, saying they must have forgotten it." 


FSC serves all victims with or without documentation or picture identification. VAWA provides that all residents, documented or not, have a right to seek and receive assistance without fear of deportation in domestic violence situations, and clients can apply for special U-Visas with FSC referrals.

Along with translations as needed, Deisy is Pennie's co-pilot at the reception desk, and also does client intake. She's been with the FSC for almost a year.

Xiomara Raynor (Xio) was hired at the FSC in December of 2007 as a bilingual administrative assistant. 

Originally from Panama, she finds cultural similarities with the people of Mexico.

Xio Raynor is FSC's bilingual administrative assistant and one of the center's three Spanish translators

"I'm able to understand what they're saying even if they're using slangs," says Xio. "The women in that culture are taught to be submissive and tolerate abuse, most priests will tell them to stay and work it out. It takes a lot for them to step out of their home and do something, especially in cases of domestic violence."


"The most rewarding part of my job is empowering people with knowledge. It's so great to see them not bow down to the abuser and successfully stand their ground," said Xio. "They might not speak the language, but after coming to the FSC they know their rights. They walk in, they see the colors and they feel uplifted. When they leave at the end of the day they say 'I feel so much lighter' and 'Wow ... I did this and this whole group of people supported me in this cheerful place."

"We provide them with all the services and tools, my job is to empower victims with the tools they need so they can stand alone and start the process of rediscovering how to do things by themselves, because most of the time the batterer is the controller. I feel great satisfaction of knowing that he/she left with something they did not have when they got here, which is knowledge, and knowledge is power. But I'm always here for them and they know I'm just a phone call away."



Family Safety Center
600 Civic Center, First Floor Police Courts Building
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74103
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This newsletter was financed in whole or in part by funds from 

the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as administered by the City of Tulsa. 

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