How many victim protective orders are filed in Oklahoma County?
I discovered an increase.
The 2,400 victim protective orders applied for in Oklahoma County District Court by mid-September are more than any year since 2003. The 2,400 is 123 more than in the same time period last year and 173 more than two years ago.
The identity of victims is a sensitive situation. So I chose to talk with a judge who presides over these cases.
Oklahoma County Special Judge Don Easter, who has heard VPOs for about six weeks, suggested including a couple of judges with more experience. District Judge Donald Deason has three and a half years experience on these cases and Special Judge Barry Hafar has two years experience.
Let me skip to the heart of what the three had to say, which was not about numbers but rather about people: Don't hesitate to apply for one.
"I've sat at the bench and seen somebody that clearly fears the other side,” Hafar said. "A lot of the evidence that we hear in these case isn't necessarily verbal, a lot of it you can just see from the faces. When there's domestic violence and you see that in the application, there's a no tolerance policy.”
So, why would an application be denied?
The victim protection order statute is part of the domestic abuse docket. There are protected relationships such as a spouse, ex-spouse or someone you are or were dating. Others who can be considered include those being stalked and rape victims.
Not included would be someone with an opposing Bedlam belief walking up and punching you in the nose. Deason and Hafar gave that example. As Easter points out, a person can be charged with assault and battery in a criminal case, but not be eligible for a protective order.