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Comanche Co. Woman Pushes for Tougher Domestic Abuse Laws

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COMANCHE CO., Okla_ A Comanche County woman's fight for tougher laws against domestic violence has finally paid off, but Barbara Burk said there is still more work to do.

Burk has been working with Oklahoma lawmakers ever since her daughter, Diane Dye, was murdered by her estranged husband in July of 2010. Burk helped author two bills in the past, but none of them were approved. Just last week, the House passed a bill aimed at stiffer penalties for abusers. Now, it's on the way to Governor Mary Fallin's desk. 

The new bill makes it mandatory for law enforcement to arrest violators of protective orders who are locals. Before, it was only mandatory if the protective order was filed out of state. The bill also decreases the waiting period for a hearing after a protective order is filed from 20 to 14 days.

Barbara Burk said she feels like a huge burden had been lifted. She said the new bill gives the already terrified victims the legal support they desperately need.

"It gives the victim the assurance that there is this protective order in place, and if he violates it, there is going to be a penalty to pay," Burk said. "It's not going to fall on deaf ears."

Burk said she realizes that this new bill will not fix every issue concerning domestic violence, but it gives law enforcement more power than before.

"Law enforcement might just talk to him and try to calm him down and tell him not to do whatever," Burk said. "With someone that's intent on doing harm to that victim, that's not going to help. They have to know that there are penalties to pay."

She said her tragic journey for justice has opened her eyes to the startling number of cases similar to her daughter's here in Comanche County. The office where protective orders are filed sees about 600 people per year, seeking legal protection from their abuser. Burk said she hopes this new law will give victims the support they need to get protection from their abuser during an often volatile time.

"I think that the victims appreciate being heard and being validated," said Marie Detty New Directions Director Delcia Dillard said. "Certainly, moving from a 20-day to a 14-day hearing, it makes a lot of difference for the victim."

"I don't feel like I've done anything any other mother wouldn't do," Burk said. "We all want to have the resolve that if our children are taken in a violent manner like that, something good has to come of that. There has to be a reason."

Burk said she's happy about the new bill but said she would like to see more changes. She said she wants to see the county sheriff's departments notify police in the smaller cities about protective orders against their citizens. She also wants to make it mandatory for law enforcement to confiscate the firearms of the person the protective order was filed against.

Governor Mary Fallin is expected to sign the bill, which was authored by House Speaker T.W. Shannon, in June.

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