Children Impacted By Crime and Trauma Suffer Consequences for the Rest of Their Lives

Her voice cracked and she took a short pause before she could finish speaking about the hundreds of traumatized children who have come through the doors of Oklahoma City’s Palomar Family Justice Center. It’s been open less than a year but already more than 1,900 women, children, and men have come to Palomar to seek justice and escape domestic violence. 427 of these clients are children. It’s not OK – and Kim Garrett and her team at Palomar are working hard to stop the violence and help these crime victims become survivors.

The Neighborhood Alliance asked Kim and members of the OKC Police Department to talk about childhood trauma and the effects of crime on Oklahoma’s children. I was one of several dozens of people crowded into a room at the Oklahoma City County Health Department to hear what is being done to address violence and crimes against minors.

Kim says she gets choked up every time she talks about the pain in their eyes and the bruises these kids suffer as violence and abuse rains down on them by the people who are supposed to love them. Infants caught in the crossfire. Toddlers who try and step in the way to protect their mothers while they are being beaten. Middle schoolers abused physically and emotionally every day by their parents.

The problem seems overwhelming in Oklahoma, especially. The Oklahoma City Police Department responded to 35,063 domestic violence calls in 2016 alone. We are 4th in the nation for the number of women killed by men – men who are husbands, partners, and fathers to their children. In nearly 70 percent of the cases, according to the Family Violence Institute, children in the home are also abused.

There is hope though. In cities where Family Justice Centers are operating, domestic violence homicides have decreased by 95 percent, Kim Garrett said. It’s why OKC is a priority for this organization.

Major Don Martin talked to this group about the OKCPD’s commitment to stopping domestic violence. Eight detectives are assigned to investigate these crimes. Those detectives are embedded in Palomar so victims and their kids have a one-stop location where they can go to get help from not only this division but also the 17 other agencies that provide services to help them recover and go on to lead lives free from the pain and violence. Major Martin also brought with him Lt. Miguel Ramos who is the head of the department’s Crimes Against Children Unit. Martin and Ramos work together so children who are victims of crime are treated with the respect and consideration they deserve.

These dedicated experts know that stopping the violence and healing the broken bones and bruises are just the first step. Kids exposed to violence and trauma are forever changed – their brains physically shrink. Stress hormone levels change the way children think and behave. Exposure to trauma is one of the leading indicators that a child will face addiction, incarceration, and perpetrate domestic abuse on others later in their lives. The OKCPD and Palomar are dedicated to breaking this cycle of violence so children can heal and overcome the crimes committed against them.

Marsy’s Law for Oklahoma wholeheartedly supports these groups and hardworking individuals and we look forward to working with them to further promote crime victims rights in Oklahoma.