NORMAN, Okla. — Anna Parker first became involved with the Women’s Resource Center after she was approached by a friend who was already on the WRC board of directors. At the time, she worked at the Norman Regional Surgery Unit as a registered nurse.
“I have been in women’s health care for all of my adult life. I’ve been a nurse all of my adult life. I’ve been taking care of women throughout my career until I retired two years ago,” Parker said. “Women needed some place to go, and they didn’t have a place to go.”
Parker now serves as the fundraising chair for WRC and she is determined to make sure people in Norman know the Women’s Resource Center is active and still provides services to survivors of domestic abuse in the area.
One of the ways the Women’s Resource Center does this is through the organization’s annual gala.
This year’s gala will be at 6 p.m. on Dec. 9 at the Same Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.
Last year was the gala’s inaugural year and Ed Harris, a longtime supporter of the Women’s Resource Center, was the speaker.
“This is a little bit different this year,” Parker said. “It is not a real fluffy, happy topic to talk about so a lot of people don’t want to talk about domestic abuse in our community.”
WRC Director of Development Kyla McMoran said this year’s event will also focus on educating the public on services and programs at the Women’s Resource Center.
Abuse survivors share their stories at the gala, including Leslie Morgan Steiner, this year’s keynote speaker and the author of “Crazy Love.”
McMoran and other WRC staff and board members first heard Steiner share her story at a conference. Soon after, the WRC decided to contact her about being their keynote for the gala.
Steiner was abused by her first husband in her early 20s, which she then wrote about in her book.
“[Steiner] will touch on the signs of abuse that you can see as a friend, family member, coworker and a boss. We are hoping it will be an education experience for people that come,” McMoran said.
Steiner is also well-known for a TED Talk she gave in Rainier, Colorado in 2010 where she addressed the most common question people ask about domestic violence: why don’t victims leave?
“My first message to you is that domestic violence happens to everyone – all races, all religions, all income and education levels – it’s everywhere,” Steiner said in her TED Talk. “Domestic violence happens in only intimate, interdependent, long-term relationships. In other words, in families. Which is the last place we would want or expect to find violence, which is one reason domestic abuse is so confusing.”
Steiner then discussed the pattern of domestic abuse and talked about how they happened in her own relationship. She said the final stage in domestic abuse is for the abuser to kill the victim and that 70 percent of murders connected with domestic violence happened after the victim left their abuser.
“Because the abuser has nothing else to lose … And still we ask, why doesn’t she just leave?,” Steiner said. “We tend to stereotype victims as grisly headlines, self-destructive women, damaged goods. The question ‘why does she stay?’ is code for some people for ‘it’s her fault for staying’ as if victims choose to fall in love with men intent on destroying us.”
Along with Steiner’s talk, McMoran said other survivors will also share their stories and the gala will end with a with a survivor from the center who came from California to escape. She wrote a song about her experience.
All of the proceeds from the event will go toward WRC programming, which helps victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking. All of these services are offered for free to victims.
Parker said fundraising events like the gala are why WRC can help adult and child victims in Norman.
“Abuse thrives only in silence,” Steiner said in her TED Talk. “You have the power to end domestic violence by simply shining a spotlight on it. We victims need everyone. We need every one of you to understand the secrets of domestic violence.”