The courts are mostly shut down as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but local officials say it is still possible to get a protective order to put a stop to domestic violence.
Osage County Sheriff Eddie Virden said that persons making contact with his office about circumstances potentially meriting the issuance of a protective order can speak with a deputy. If the deputy is convinced a protective order is appropriate, the deputy can fill out paperwork and contact a judge to gain approval for an emergency protective order, Virden said.
Virden clarified that the general public is not currently allowed physical access to the Osage County Sheriff’s Office, which has implemented social distancing practices like other essential workplaces have done. Still, persons in need of help can call the sheriff’s office at 918-287-3131 and have their calls directed to the appropriate person.
Virden said his office probably will end up responding to the majority of situations during the pandemic that may merit a protective order being issued. He said that a larger share of the office’s calls for assistance are “more domestic-related,” with people sheltering at home to avoid the novel coronavirus.
District Attorney Mike Fisher said persons who think they may need a protective order can also knock at the door of the county courthouse in Pawhuska, and security officers will help those persons make contact with the District Court clerk’s office and get the necessary assistance. Fisher credited Associate District Judge Stuart Tate with taking a direct interest in making sure procedures were put in place so that emergency protective orders can still be provided.
Olivia Gray, director of the Osage Nation Family Violence Prevention Department, said her organization is receiving fewer contacts than normal and she is concerned that some victims of domestic violence may just be deciding to take beatings without complaining to authorities, for fear of having their abusers locked up in the county jail at a time when the coronavirus is spreading.
Fisher has said that Osage County will continue to arrest and jail individuals suspected of violent domestic crimes.
Gray said she thinks the court system needs to be demanding with abusers.
“They need to be held accountable. They need to show progress,” she said. Gray emphasized that the justice system could make a difference by mandating that abusers pay to cover expenses incurred by their victims, including the expense of seeking counseling.