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Oklahoma has no statute for hate crimes against women

Lawton_October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and women in Oklahoma should be very aware.  One in every eight women in Oklahoma is a victim of domestic violence.  And, believe it or not, Oklahoma has no state law concerning hate crimes against women.  Twenty states have already passed this statute, but it seems Oklahoma is behind the times.

Domestic abusers can be tried for assault and battery - so, you might wonder why Oklahoma needs hate crime laws as well?  It depends on the circumstances.  The punishment for hate crimes is many times harsher than a mere batter conviction.  So, without this statute, many believe the abuser may be getting off too easy.

It's a frightening and demoralizing situation for any woman who has had it happen - to have someone who's supposed to love you, hurt you.  Oklahoma has come a long way in making sure abusers pay the consequence.  But, some experts say there's still more lawmakers can do.

"Oklahoma tends to be a little more conservative in their thinking and it takes a little while for things to get up," says Leah Stout from New Directions Shelter.  She believes Oklahoma should be one of the states that punish abusers of women for hate crimes.  "Of course it would always be beneficial to have harsher punishments and more strict regulation," she says.

These laws may even make victimizers think twice before resorting to violence.  "I think maybe sometimes they would take a different look at it maybe a different approach to it if it was something that had harder rules.  Maybe the jail time would be a lot more stern," says Stout.  "When they see that the legislature is making a point that it is something that is important that they want to deal with more people around might be ok with taking it seriously."

But, there is some good news.  "Oklahoma tends to be a little bit more of a conservative state, so we were 7 [in the Nation for domestic violence] last year, this year we're 10, so our awareness doesn't come out as quickly maybe as more liberal states," she said.

On the federal level, the House and Senate have passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act which allows the feds to step in when local authorities aren't taking enough action.  However, President Bush has announced his intent to veto the legislation.

The New Directions Women's Shelter in Lawton is always accepting donations.  Their number is 580-357-6141.

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