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February 2023
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SW Oklahoma Tribes Work Together for Domestic Violence Awareness and Services


 Group Pic Anadarko City Hall

A combined group of representatives from the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes, Kiowa Tribe, Apache Tribe of Oklahoma and City of Anadarko were present during the Domestic Violence Awareness Month proclamation by Anadarko Mayor Kyle Eastwood on October 19, 2018. 


Wichita Social Services-along with its Victims Advocacy (VOCA: Victims of Crime Act) program-has a difficult responsibility. Essentially, they offer assistance to those women and men who need help in removing themselves and their young children from life-threatening dangers of domestic, family and intimate partner violence.


According to Victims' Advocate E'Dena Craig-Romero, the duties of the program are "to make sure that any person who comes to us, first and foremost, is safe," she said. "After that, to make sure that they're permanently safe and to offer them services that they might need immediately. They may leave home without any groceries or clothing or anything. We help provide them the basic needs to get by until they're able to get permanent help."


According to FY 2018 Wichita Social Services fourth quarter reports, 64 people [29 adults and 35 children] were assisted with the program. In some cases, previous clients do return to the program. "A woman leaves her abuser on an average of 7-to-10 times before she leaves him or her permanently," said Social Services Director Penny Hammonds.

 Medicine Table

A red shawl with sage, sweetgrass and the names of southwest Oklahoma's Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women were present during the reading of the City of Anadarko's Domestic Violence Awareness Month Proclamation on October 19, 2018.

While one of the immediate needs is to find shelter for clients that is safe and confidential, basic necessities-such as hygiene products-have to be purchased.


"Sometimes, if we have women who are leaving their situation, they're leaving with nothing," Hammonds said. "We might be taking them to the shelter with absolutely nothing. They might leave with their purse and that's it. They might not have clothes. We put them in a hotel, and they might not have a toothbrush or toothpaste. We've got to get all those items for them."


The funding for the VOCA program is through state funds such as the Oklahoma District Attorneys Council (for relocation) and Health and Human Services federal funds (Family Violence Prevention and Services Act) for needs such as emergency clothing, groceries, utilities and other items.


However, there are additional necessities that go beyond the scope of the program. This can range from treatment for substance abuse, getting warrants quashed to re-obtain custody of children and help with divorce services. There are also times for the Wichita program when funding runs out. This is where collaboration with other domestic violence programs-primarily those of the Kiowa Tribe and Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, as well as the Chickasha, Okla.-based Women's Service & Family Resource Center-are vital.


"We all help each other out with our clients whenever we need to," Hammonds said.


A recent example of partnership among the Wichita, Apache and Kiowa programs includes working with the City of Anadarko, Okla., to declare October 2018 as "Domestic Violence Awareness Month" on October 19, 2018. With over 30 people in attendance, Anadarko Mayor Kyle Eastwood said, "I'm very grateful for tribal leaders and members of our local tribes who are standing up and saying 'Enough is enough.' I'm glad to be joining in that effort."


The service area for the program is a wide area in southwest Oklahoma that covers either all or portions of the following counties: Caddo, Cotton, Harmon, Jackson, Washita, Blaine, Canadian, Stevens, Comanche, Grady, Kiowa, Jefferson and Tillman. The program also extends beyond Wichita tribal members to include members of other tribes and also non-Natives. It is also non-gender specific.


While funding for the program has increased to accommodate additional clients, there are times when extra help is needed. In some cases, tribal employees will graciously contribute for client needs on short notice, as well as occasional donors who help fund trainings. At press time, there is a primary need was for a storage space so that donated household items can be accepted, as well as a separate interview room apart from employee offices, according to both Hammonds and Craig-Romero.


In addition to more funding, there are also two new support groups that meet on a weekly basis. This includes the Survivors of Homicide Wellbriety Support Group that meets from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on Wednesdays with Cindy Famero, a Wichita Social Services contracted caseworker, and a newly-formed Domestic Violence Support Group that also meets on Wednesdays at 2 p.m. Both groups meet in the Wichita Family Services Building.


Hammonds and Craig-Romero both said that youth age-appropriate education is a key deterrent to domestic family and intimate partner violence. At press time, education classes were in the planning stages with Riverside Indian School beginning in January 2019.


"If we can get them young so that the boys know how to act appropriate toward young girls," said Craig-Romero, "and girls know how they're supposed to be treated and how to set those boundaries, then we'll start to see less and less domestic violence as they get older, hopefully."

 Cindy Name


Cindy KaudleKaule, Leah Mahseet and Emily Sue Morgan are three of the names placed on the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women red shawl during the Domestic Violence Awareness Month Proclamation on October 19, 2018.