To honor survivors and those who have lost their lives to domestic violence, a candlelight vigil is scheduled to begin at the Pontotoc County Courthouse plaza at 6 p.m. tonight.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The vigil is part of a monthlong community effort to educate and raise public awareness about domestic violence.

The Pontotoc County District Attorney’s Office will host the event in collaboration with Chickasaw Nation Violence Prevention Services, students enrolled at the East Central University nursing department, Ada Police Department and the Family Crisis Center.

The candlelight vigil agenda includes a live band, release of balloons, official speakers and survivors sharing personal stories. The closing ceremony will honor those who have lost their lives as a result of domestic violence by lighting candles.

Part of bringing awareness to the community is educating the public about domestic violence. Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior intended for power and control over another person, which can include physical, emotional, verbal or sexual abuse.

“Domestic violence isn’t something most people find easy to talk about,” said Debra Campbell, domestic violence nurse examiner for Chickasaw Nation Violence Prevention Services.

“The hope of the vigil is to bring awareness and education to our community about this hidden and sometimes deadly behavior. Oklahoma is fourth in the nation for number of domestic violence homicides,” she said.

Domestic violence can occur in relationships and families regardless of age, sex or economic status. Campbell said one in four Native American women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, the following behaviors are considered “red flags” associated with an abusive relationship:

• Shows extreme jealousy of your friends and time spent away.

• Insults, demeans or shames you with put-downs.

• Takes your money or refuses to give you money for necessary expenses.

• Looks at you or acts in ways that scare you.

• Prevents you from making your own decisions.

• Destroys your property or threatens to hurt or kill your pets.

• Pressures you to have sex when you don’t want to or demands sexual activities for which you are not comfortable

• Intimidates you with firearms, knives or other weapons.

These behaviors are some of the ways used to maintain power and control over another person.

Campbell commented that a hidden behavior steadily on the rise with domestic violence assaults is strangulation. Strangulation is considered one of the top four methods used when women are murdered during an assault.

According to the Strangulation Institute, 50 percent of strangulation assaults will have no visible injuries. Unconsciousness can occur within 6.8 seconds. One incident of strangulation could result in injury within days, weeks, months or even years after the attack.

For anyone currently experiencing domestic violence, or knows someone who is, resources are available at the local, state and national level.

The Chickasaw Nation Violence Prevention Program offers a variety of services, including advocacy, supportive counseling, emergency shelter, safety planning, assisting with protective orders, referrals for legal assistance, employment assistance, transportation and relocation if necessary.

The advocates diligently work with survivors to help them become independent and self-sufficient based on their personal plan.

The Violence Prevention Program also provides services for Native Americans who must attend a 52-week domestic violence program as a result of being charged with domestic violence. OTAP (Own violence, Take responsibility, Act respectfully Program) provides weekly classes using a cognitive behavior approach, along with cultural emphasis, to reduce violence in the home.

To learn more about these services, call (580) 272-5580 or the 24-hour hotline, (855) 405-7645, or visit Chickasaw.net/DomesticViolence.

Another agency providing domestic violence assistance is the Ada Family Crisis Center. This agency serves Coal, Pontotoc, Garvin and McClain counties. This organization offers many of the same services as the Chickasaw Nation, and both agencies work together to serve any individual or family needing help. To reach the Family Crisis Center’s 24-hour hotline, call (580) 436-5304.

The 24/7 National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-799-7233, provides lifesaving tools and immediate support to enable victims to find safety. Callers to the hotline can expect highly trained, experienced advocates to offer compassionate support, crisis intervention information and referral services in more than 200 languages.

More resources can be found online at www.thehotline.org.

For anyone supporting a friend or relative experiencing domestic violence, Teresa Morgan, domestic violence specialist with Chickasaw Nation Violence Prevention Services, recommends patience and having an open ear.

“Victims, on average, leave their abusive partner multiple times before ending the relationship permanently,” Morgan said. “What you as a family member or friend can do to help is to offer a shoulder to cry on and an empathetic ear to listen without judgment.”

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Eric Swanson is the City Hall and general assignment reporter for The Ada News. He spent 15 years working at the Dodge City Daily Globe in Dodge City, Kansas, before joining The Ada News’ staff in 2012.