Program is making a difference in the fight against domestic abuse
by Richard Chase Special to the Democrat
A domestic abuse grant awarded to the Choctaw Nation last November has been making an impact by providing early education beginning at an early age and covers a large portion of Southeast Oklahoma where the tribe operate programs, according to SAFE coordinator Nicole Loper.
Three years ago, Oklahoma was ranked fourth in the nation with the number of domestic abuse cases reported, but with education and training programs which includes the Striving for an Abuse Free Environment (SAFE), the state has dropped to 17th. That number is still too high for Loper who along with her partner coordinator Karen Lyons, who works in the Talihina office, have been providing information and training beginning with students in the seventh grade through high school and college. They will also speak to groups or anyone who may want the information.
The SAFE grant is funded through the Department of Justice and is designed to provide rural prevention awareness on domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. In addition to the education program, they fund the training of SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner), partner with the Crisis Control Center and host CLEET training for law enforcement on domestic violence.
“Most of our programs in schools discuss safe dates,” said Loper. “These kids are at an age when they really need to understand what actions can be considered abuse and even an unwanted kiss can be considered sexual assault.”
For Loper, the program has given her an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those who could become victims after she suffered 12 years of extreme physical and emotional abuse. Her story began at a high school in San Diego, Calif., when she began dating a boy five years older in her senior year.
“He was a shy boy who was very quiet and didn’t seem to have many friends,” she said. “I think that is what attracted me to him, but that shyness began to disappear and he started rushing the relationship along wanting to get married.”
As the weeks progressed after the engagement, he would keep close watch on every move she made, calling her as soon as she got home from school or work. He insisted on driving her to all activities and frowned on her having friends or attending school activities. When she graduated and wanted to move into an apartment with friends, that’s when the first of the physical abuse began. What began as an argument quickly escalated and he slammed her head into the floor as hard as he could.
As always he was sorry and it would never happen again. He begged for forgiveness, swore her to secrecy and said he would not stop her from moving into an apartment with her friends. While he allowed her the freedom to live on her own, the verbal abuse and name calling began as he tried to isolate her and take control.
She became pregnant when she was 19 and finally relented to marriage. Her husband decided they would move to Texas with his family, leaving her without any family support. Once settled in their new home, he would call her every name in the book and make her feel inferior.
As the years passed and with two daughters and a younger son, the abuse became so bad during one confrontation he lost control and beat her causing a broken jaw that required seven weeks to heal. She begged him to call 911 and take her to the emergency room for treatment. Instead he called his mother who convinced her to make up a story that a strange woman she met on the street had attacked her.
Looking back now, she wishes she could have had the training that is now available when she was younger and prepared to recognize the warning signs before becoming committed to a relationship and would have known what to do once it became apparent it was a problem that would not solve itself.
It wasn’t until she heard her young son calling his older sisters names like he had heard his father call her that she made the decision to escape. Getting away wasn’t easy and she didn’t have a safety plan and it almost got her killed.
With her past behind her, she has built a new and happy life for her children and husband, Jeremy. She was able to get a job with Children and Family Services eight years ago and when this grant became available, it gave her the opportunity to become an advocate against what she endured for so many years.
Anyone who would like to schedule a program can contact Loper at 924-8280 or toll free 1-800-522-6170.
Commentscomments powered by Disqus
Local Gas Prices