The Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (OCADVSA) is the membership organization of Oklahoma’s domestic violence and sexual assault service providers, consisting of 28 Attorney General certified agencies and 3 tribal programs. The first domestic violence services in the state were provided by the YWCA-OKC in 1974. Other services were then followed in Norman, Tulsa, Altus, Clinton, Ponca City, Stillwater and Enid, OK. On July 10, 1979, representatives from services in Enid, Lawton, Norman, Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Tahlequah attended a planning meeting to discuss the formation of a state coalition. The second meeting of these programs, in April 1979, cemented the formation of the Oklahoma Coalition on Domestic Violence, and the first shelter for battered women opened on March 5, 1979, in Enid, Oklahoma. Oklahoma Coalition on Domestic Violence was incorporated on July 17, 1981. In the 1990’s the name changed to the Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.
Through the work of the Coalition’s Legislative Committee, a line item in the State budget for domestic violence programs was obtained. The Legislature chose to funnel this money through the Department of Mental Health, which then contracted with each individual statewide program. The same funding formula continues to be used today.
Many saw domestic violence as a mental health issue, as a pathology of individual women. Women were abused because they had low self esteem, were depressed, victims were enablers, women like the excitement of abuse and that drug and alcohol abuse cause most domestic violence. The system certainly did very little to hold offenders accountable for their crimes. It wasn’t until 1986 in Oklahoma that peace officers were granted the right to make an arrest, w/o a warrant, of a person the officer has probable cause to believe has committed an act of domestic abuse within the preceding 4 hours 22 O.S. 40.3 (Emergency Order of Protection).
The Violence Against Women Act was established in 1994 and signed by President Bill Clinton. Representatives from OCADVSA participated in the congressional hearings that led to the passage of the Violence Against Women Act. It provided $1.6 billion to enhance investigation and prosecution of the violent crime perpetrated against women, increased pre-trial detention of the accused, imposed automatic and mandatory restitution on those convicted, and allowed civil redress in cases prosecutors chose to leave unprosecuted. It also created Full Faith and Credit for Domestic Violence that allowed for the enforcement across state, tribal and territorial lines. It was the first step in naming domestic violence as a crime. Congress reauthorized VAWA in 2000 and was signed by President George W. Bush. This reauthorization created additional funding streams that included state, tribal and territorial coalitions of victim service agencies as funding victim resources such as transitional housing, legal assistance for victims, and services for rural states. About the same time OCADVSA membership was beginning to openly discuss their frustrations with the state working under the theory that domestic violence was a mental health issue. Their first step was to look at all the state agencies that might be an appropriate administrative agency for victim service providers. After several meetings and much discussion the Coalition voted to attempt the move to the Office of Attorney General for administering victim services. The administering agency is responsible for administering state and federal appropriations as well as the certification for victim service providers. Several meetings were held with national leader and other state coalition directors invited to assist in the process. At the time the Commission of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (DMHSAS) was Terry Cline. He attended some of these meetings as well as meetings with the OCADVSA Executive Director and Coalition leadership. Unfortunately no agreement could be reached with DMHSAS to release the victim service provider programs to another agency.
Since the mid 1980s, OCADVSA has employed a lobbyist. Our lobbyist worked tirelessly along with others with the goal of moving victim services to the Office of Attorney General. The Attorney General at the time was Drew Edmondson and he was willing to have victim services moved to his office, but the responsibility for the transfer lay with OCADVSA. It took three years to accomplish, but at the very end of the 2000 legislative session the legislature authorized the move. The Victim Services Unit was created within the OAG. In addition to administering funding and certification, the provide training to the criminal justice community, house the Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board, and facilitate the Attorney General Domestic Violence Sexual Assault Advisory Committee, among many services.