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When the Campus Initiative to Reduce Crime Against Women was formed at East Central University in 2004, a figurative light was shining on campus.

CIRCAW, a program funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, is designed to reduce the incidence of interpersonal violence, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.

A student’s mother approached CIRCAW about the violent tendencies of her daughter’s fiancée, the most recent of which occurred on campus. The daughter had ended the engagement and returned the engagement ring with written notification that he was not to contact her, which was necessary to obtain a protective order.

CIRCAW Project Coordinator Peggy Saunkeah assisted the victim in obtaining the no-contact order through the Judicial Affairs Office on campus. She then explained to the victim’s mother, the services that CIRCAW could provide, but it was up to her daughter to make the request. She was scheduled to be in the office that afternoon, but did not show.

A month later, after stalking and persistent attempts to contact the victim escalated, the victim reached out to CIRCAW for assistance.

“This is not about the relationship, it is solely about the power and control which are tendencies the batterer possesses and is his/her problem. It is not anything the victim is doing,” Saunkeah said.

Because the ex-boyfriend was considering leaving campus, CIRCAW petitioned for an emergency protective order through the Pontotoc County District Court. It was granted. That order supersedes the campus’ no-contact order and would reach beyond the campus if the ex-boyfriend relocated.

As her advocate, Saunkeah assisted in obtaining the campus police reports, completed the request for the no-contact order and the petition for the emergency protective order (EPO).

Additionally, Saunkeah appeared with her to file the petition and several court appearances in an effort to help her and her family understand the process and scope of the protective order.

Over that summer, both the victim and ex-boyfriend were involved in summer programs on campus. The victim routinely reported that the ex-boyfriend was honoring the EPO.

“She also kept me informed that there was no contact from the ex-boyfriend in which the contact would have been in violation of the court’s order and that she was continuing to heal and thrive here at ECU,” Saunkeah said. “So many times, we do not get this feedback after the services are rendered which is the heartbreak of my work, because I don’t know if they continue to be okay. But I do see the empowerment of receiving an education, helping to break the strangling hold that the batterer many times has over a victim.”

Last spring, this victim was invited to join the Oklahoma Gamma Chapter of Alpha Chi, and Saunkeah was asked by the victim, through email, to take part in the honorary pinning ceremony.

“Since I am not her advisor or special professor, I was twice as elated with the request. I was there with her, just as I will be with her, when she steps across the stage at graduation as a beautiful, happy, healthy young woman on her path to a wonderful future,” said Saunkeah.

The collaborative effort of CIRCAW with other campus entities such as the Regional University System of Oklahoma-Violence Prevention Project (RUSO-VPP) and the Campus Law Enforcement Technical Assistant Program (CLE-TAP) has led to continued success efforts.

NOTE: To bring community-wide awareness that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, CIRCAW collaborated with its community partners, Pontotoc County District Attorney’s Office, The Family Crisis Center and The Chickasaw Nation Office of Violence Prevention and Behavioral Health, to host the Seventh Annual Candlelight Vigil at the Pontotoc County Courthouse Plaza on Oct. 11. This year’s solemn ceremony was a huge success with over 175 attending and featured the musical talents of recording artist Jenny Sims, an Oklahoma singer, songwriter and domestic violence survivor. Speeches were also made by Pontotoc County Associate District Judge Martha Kilgore, Pontotoc County District Attorney Chris Ross and a survivor of domestic violence. The annual event is scheduled to return to ECU in October of 2013.


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