"End the Silence, End the Violence"

Lawton_A campaign to stop domestic violence in Oklahoma has been so successful that calls to a new domestic hotline have spiked nearly 40%. The campaign has succeeded beyond its wildest expectations, but in this case, it's not a good thing. The population of Clinton, Oklahoma is 9,000, and the increase in calls for help were shocking - they increased by 215%.

On Wednesday, Attorney General Drew Edmonson announced that the "End the Silence, End the Violence" campaign will include more cities - including more in Southwest Oklahoma. Lawton's New Directions Women's Shelter Director Leah Stout is very enthusiastic about the campaign - a partnership between Wal-Mart and Oklahoma before only included eight small cities. However, now it will include all 85 Wal-Mart stores in the state.

Stout believes in the campaign because she says an abused woman often cannot escape her abuser. But, now, all she will need to do is make a quick trip to the Wal-Mart bathroom to get the help she needs. At one time, a victim of violent abuse didn't have options, but since this campaign began, help is more accessible. "When we think we've reached everybody, we realize there's so many more people that are out there that we can help," says Stout.

The campaign is simple. Posters in Wal-Mart women's restrooms in eight pilot cities list a telephone number and information on where to get help - both in English and Spanish. It makes it much easier for women to quickly and discreetly access a phone number while they are away from their abuser - which can sometimes be an impossible task. "[Sometimes] they [abusers] take the phone with them out of the house, even if it's a phone that's attached to the house, they will take all the receivers out of the house so that when they're gone, they [victims] can't get to a phone," says Stout. "They have neighbors that watch what they do. They have friends that will drive by to make sure that they're there. So if you're somewhere out in public and you can go in to the restroom, somewhere where he can't go, who would think that you could get some information that way?"

The campaign has been so successful in the pilot cities - proven by the dramatic increase in calls - that they are now hanging posters in every Wal-Mart in Oklahoma. "For this to happen, and Wal-Mart to do something so gracious as to want to help victims of domestic violence, I'm sure that we will absolutely see an increase in calls," Stout says.

Originally, the campaign was promoted in six small Oklahoma cities, along with Tulsa and Oklahoma City, but now it will be everywhere in the state. Meanwhile, any victim of abuse can call the help line at 800-522-SAFE, and although 99% of victims calling are women or children, men can also be victims.