The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

October 19, 2013

Protecting victims, seeking justice

By Cass Rains, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and District Attorney Mike Fields’ office is continuing its work to ensure those who commit acts of domestic violence are held accountable.

Fields said his office receives a small federal Violence Against Women Act grant to help fund efforts to prosecute domestic violence cases in his five-county district.

“We’ve received a small VAWA grant that partially funds two prosecutors in the district — one in Garfield County and one in Canadian County,” he said. “We have received that grant for the last 17 years.”

Fields said his office must apply for the grant each year and the funds are used for training and prosecuting domestic violence cases.

“We have one prosecutor who is assigned especially to the domestic violence caseload,” he said. “That prosecutor has specialized training in the issues of domestic abuse. To effectively prosecute these cases, the prosecutors need to understand the dynamics of domestic abuse.”

Fields said his office looks at each case of domestic violence presented to prosecutors in an attempt to prosecute each case.

“We work closely within our office and our domestic violence prosecutor works closely with Enid Police Department and YWCA (Enid) so we can build strong cases while also referring victims to resources in the community,” he said. “Domestic violence cases, as a whole, are difficult cases to prosecute just because of the issues related to domestic violence.

“Many times, victims of abuse either don’t want to come forward and report it, or they don’t want to participate in the prosecution. We have to do everything we can to make and build a case without their direct participation. As you can image, sometimes that is difficult to do.”

The district attorney said his office files charges of domestic abuse against both men and women.

“If we look at the nationwide statistics, we know it’s not uncommon for women to be perpetrators of domestic violence,” Fields said. “One in seven men at some point in their life will be the victim of serious physical abuse at the hands of their intimate partner.”

Between July 1, 2012, and June 30, 2013, Fields’ Garfield County office reviewed 363 cases of domestic-violence related incident reports. From those incident, his office filed 139 cases with charges involving domestic abuse.

Enid Police Department Chief Brian O’Rourke said his department makes many arrests on suspicion of domestic violence and there is no tolerance of the crime.

“Domestic violence is a serious issue in Enid, and society in general,” he said. “Domestic violence can be blamed on the recent homicide here (Crystal Johnson case).

“The EPD works closely with the District Attorneys office and the YWCA to prosecute cases and educate the public on this issue.”

Offices who have contact with someone who may be a victim of domestic abuse provide information about receiving help and filing for a protective order. The department also has a special investigator for cases of domestic violence.

“We have a dedicated domestic abuse investigator,” O’Rourke said, “and it is sad to say, but he is busy, too busy.”

Fields said his office does everything it can in the cases it files for domestic violence.

“Domestic violence cases are important to our office,” he said. “We do everything we can to protect victims and to seek justice.”