Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What is Going On Across Oregon With Domestic Violence?

Last summer I sat down in the office of the Illinois Valley Safe House Alliance in Cave Junction, Oregon, to speak with Chris Mallette, the Executive Director, about how budget cuts were affecting Domestic Violence cases in her area.

Chris said, “Survivors don’t report Domestic Violence because there are too few sheriff’s deputies.  The response time is too slow.”

The last few years have seen significant cuts in government and foundation funding for Domestic Violence services as poor economic conditions have reduced resources and politicians have emphasized tax cuts and spending cuts, believing that these actions will revive the economy.  Domestic Violence services across the state have halved their staffs as they struggle to stay open.  Some counties, such as Josephine County where the Illinois Valley is located, have experienced major cutbacks in their law enforcement due to declining support from timber revenue the last 25 years as well as federal support payments that were supposed to ease the counties’ transitions to economies not based on logging have been eliminated.  Persuading voters to raise taxes to pay for law enforcement and other services in counties where strong anti government sentiment prevails along with unemployment rates greater than 10 percent has proved challenging.  Both Josephine and Curry County voters recently defeated tax increases.

Does Domestic Violence go away if we fund neither Domestic Violence services nor law enforcement?

Of course not.  

What is to be done?  But first, what has been happening in Oregon?

I have been walking across Oregon since 2008, to raise awareness about abuse.  In 2008, I merely assisted another woman, June, who was both a Domestic Violence victim and the mother of two child sex abuse survivors.  We walked that year with the hopes of ending the statute of limitations on criminal prosecution of Child Sex Abuse offenders.  She did not know that her husband was sexually abusing her children when she left him when they were preteens.  She left him because she endured years of low key physical violence and lots of emotional violence from him.  After she left him, her ex-husband kept their children away from her, telling the girls that if they went to live with their mother, they would never see their paternal grandparents again.  Finally, when they were older teenagers, they realized their father was lying to them about their mother, and they went to live with her.  However many years passed before they came to terms with the abuse they suffered as children.  When they finally understood the harm their father caused them, they were too old to press criminal charges against him and too afraid of him to file a civil lawsuit.

June’s case illustrates the relationship between Domestic Violence and Child Abuse.  The relationship is so close that police officers are required to investigate for Child Abuse if they are called to the scene of a Domestic Violence incident.

These abuses have probably been with us forever.  Recently archaeologists in Egypt found the body of a child they thought was a victim of Child Abuse during the Roman occupation of Egypt nearly 2,000 years ago ( ).  The child’s body was riddled with multiple fractured bones in various stages of healing and an unhealed broken collar bone that probably caused the death of the child.  Healed fractures are rare among the skeletal, archaeological remains of children.  This child’s skeleton also revealed evidence of nutritional stress.  In addition, archaeologists describe the child as having completely broken middle forearm bones on both arms -- injuries that require significant force.

In western culture, both women and children have long been considered the property of men.  There were laws and rules against severe mistreatment but no systematic program of enforcement of these rules.  Protections from violence remained scant for millennia.  Indeed the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was not formed until 1874 -- 8 years after the formation of The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.  Awareness about Child Abuse and Domestic Violence did not increase dramatically until the 1960s and 1970s, when many battered women’s shelters were founded and Take Back the Night Marches protesting sexual violence against women were initiated.

One of the pioneers of the Domestic Violence movement, Louise Bauschard, now lives in Beaverton, Oregon.  She earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1976, and set up a women’s resource center to empower women.  However, so many calls came in to the center reporting Domestic Violence and childhood experiences of sex abuse, that Louise soon became a Domestic Violence advocate, and her center became the first Domestic Violence services in Missouri.  She moved to Oregon in 1994, and later founded the not-for-profit, Voices Set Free, in Washington County, to provide support services for survivors and to help survivors share their stories.

The Domestic Violence movement experienced a great leap forward in 1994, when then Senator Joe Biden shepherded the passage of the Violence Against Women Act also known as VAWA.  VAWA provided government grants for Domestic Violence services and county victim's assistants among other programs.

VAWA succeeded in dramatically reducing violence against women.....and men.  Between 1993 and 2010, the rate of intimate partner violence declined 67% ( During that time the number of intimate partner deaths decreased 34% for women and 57% for men (

VAWA was scheduled for reauthorization in 2010, but many Republicans and some other groups fought reauthorization for three years (, partially for budgetary reasons and partially for ideological reasons.  The Act was finally reauthorized in February 2013.

In the meantime, Domestic Violence services I visited on the Walk Across Oregon in 2009 and 2010 saw fifty percent budget and staffing cuts in 2011 and 2012.  Of the five not-for-profits I visited in 2012, only the Illinois Valley Safe House Alliance in Cave Junction had not seen a significant funding cuts.  

Chris Mallette, the Executive Director, explained, “We are not the county seat; we’ve never had those resources.  We’ve always had to find more creative ways to raise money.”

During the Walk Across Oregon in 2012, I interviewed the Executive Directors and other officers of several of the Domestic Violence services I visited around Oregon to find out what services they were providing, what problems they were meeting with and what messages they had for politicians and members of the community.

These are those interviews:

Ontario, Oregon -- Project Dove -- Malheur County -- Susan Johnson
Project Dove, Fiscal Coordinator

Q: How did your organization begin.
A:  In 1981, Judge Sullivan had an employee she was concerned about who was a victim of Domestic Violence, and she founded Project Dove.

Q:  What kinds of services do you offer?
A:  We offer an emergency Domestic Violence shelter for women and children, classes for women and children, classes on recognizing domestic violence, a 24 hour crisis line, and Kids Safe Exchange, but budget cuts eliminated supervised visitation of children for divorced parents.  We also offer help filing restraining orders, transportation to court in the county seat -- Vale, help with housing and food stamps, and for ten years we have raised money selling resale items at the Unique Boutique.

Q: What is the population you serve?
A:  Roughly 50% white and 50% Hispanic, but also Native Americans and small numbers of Asians.  Most clients are lower income.  Of the homeless people in Malheur County, roughly 50%, are victims of domestic violence.

Q:  What kind of impact have you had on domestic violence, child abuse and teen dating violence in your area?
A:  We have provided support that wouldn’t be there otherwise.  We support children through classes.

Q:  What problems are you facing right now?  
A:  We have no money, very few grants are available.  We have laid off 50% of our staff since 2010.  We are looking for volunteers to try to cover our programs.

Q:  What will happen to you if VAWA is not reenacted or if the funds that it provides are reduced? 
A:  We will have no resources at all.

Q:  What message would you like to convey to the community?
A:  Domestic Violence affects economic growth.  People run the other way when they hear about Domestic Violence.  They don’t consider what happens to the children.  Children exposed to Domestic Violence often suffer so many emotional problems they become nonproductive adults.

Q:  What message would you like to convey to society?  To politicians?
A:  You don’t want me to tell you.  Society wants people to keep it to themselves.

Sunset Over Burns, Oregon, During Range Fire, 2012

Burns, Oregon -- Harney Helping Organization for Personal Emergencies -- Harney County -- Teresa Cowing, Executive Director

Q:  What problems are you facing right now?
A:  We went from a four person office to a two person office.  We really need those two people that we lost.  We went to a training in Sunriver, Oregon.  We met Domestic Violence advocates from other parts of the state.  Portland area Domestic Violence services have an advocate for every variation of Domestic Violence service needs.  In our office the two of us have to do everything.

Q:  What would happen to you if the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is not re-enacted or if the funds it provides are reduced?
A:  We could maintain for a while, but we might be reduced to a one person office.

Q: What message would you like to convey to the community?
A: We’re here.  We need all the support we can get.  We need the support of the community to stay here.  Shelter is needed for victims of Domestic Violence and their children.  We recently received four calls from the national hotline for Domestic Violence.  Other shelters elsewhere were full, and they needed a place to house survivors.  We are out of the way and hard (for perpetrators) to find, and we have good support from our local law enforcement officers who patrol around here (our shelter) regularly.  So we are a good place for domestic violence victims from out of state to come and be safe.  An out of state woman came here recently and her husband stalked her to here, but we got really good support from local law enforcement officers.  Burns is a small town where everybody knows everybody.

Q:  What message would you like to convey to the politicians?  
A:  We need funding to keep us here and keep us going.

Q:  When did your organization begin?
A:  March 1984.

Q:  What kind of services do you offer?
A:  Domestic violence and sexual assault advocacy, shelter with two larger rooms for families and four smaller rooms for individuals, support groups, and a food pantry.  A volunteer stays at the shelter two nights a week, and we receive referrals from the national hotline (, phone 1-800-799-SAFE).

Q:  Can you tell me a bit about the population you serve?
A:  The population of Harney County is 4,000 people.  We receive referrals from other areas when their shelters are full.  Half of our clients are from Oregon, and half are from out of state.  Our clients are lower income.

Q:  What kind of impact have you been able to have on child abuse/Domestic Violence, teen dating violence etc. in your area?
A:  We are getting our name and our mission out there.  We are going to more community meetings.  We are working with the Department of Human Services ten hours a week.  More cases are being reported.

Klamath Falls, Oregon -- Klamath County Crisis Center/Marta’s House -- Klamath County, Oregon -- interview with Carolyn Acevedo

Q: What will happen to you if the Violence Against Women Act is not reenacted or if the funds it provides are dramatically reduced?
A: We will experience extreme budget cuts and staff reductions.  Both federal funding and foundation funding are down right now.  We have experienced cuts to the food bank.  We are only able to give out staples such as rice and beans right now.

Q: What services do you offer?
A: We are working to develop Turtle Cove, a transitional housing project that provides women and children with a studio apartment for up to two years.  We offer two kinds of classes on domestic violence, and open class on recognizing domestic violence and INOKA (It’s Not OK Anymore --  INOKA is a 16 week course which covers recognizing domestic violence with an abuse inventory, the power and control wheel (, the use of “I” statements ( and how to feel empowered.  Child welfare refers clients to us for this program.  We also provide a class on Batterer Intervention Prevention ( which is organized through the probation office.  We also provide a Native American focused program, Healing Winds, and work with the WOCUS Blossum Native American shelter.
We want to offer a support group for Sexual Assault victims.  They feel ashamed and guilty, as though everything is their fault.  The victims wonders if other people know.  It takes so much strength to walk through the door to seek help.
We also want to offer pick up and drop off services for parents in high conflict divorce relationships.  We currently staff this with volunteers.  We need more funding.
Safety and safety planning are always our priority.  We meet the survivors where they are.

In addition to these interviews, one Executive Director of a Domestic Violence service did not want to be identified for the sake of the client told me about.

She said, “It happens to men too.  I’ve had male rape victims call me and ask for help, but they are so filled with shame and guilt that they are not able to come in to our offices for our services.”

Volunteer walker and Klamath Lake Cares joins me in Klamath Falls Walk Across Oregon, 2012

What We, Compassionate Gathering and Voices Set Free, are Doing to Help

We are reaching out to the community to raise awareness, provide healing for survivors and encourage support for Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse survivors.  I am walking with Louise Bauschard and volunteers from Voices Set Free through Hillsboro, Oregon, on July 13, starting at 9:30 AM at the offices of Voices Set Free at 254 North First Avenue.  We will first enjoy the Farmer’s Market in downtown Hillsboro.  Then some intrepid souls will walk with me the four miles from downtown Hillsboro to NE 53rd Avenue Park at 300 NE 53rd Avenue in Hillsboro, for a picnic.  Hopefully, a few people will also join me for a nature walk in the Noble Woods Park across Baseline Road from NE 53rd Avenue Community Park.  During these walks, we will give out awareness ribbons for Child Abuse, Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, buttons proclaiming our goals, “End Abuse, Heal the Wounds” and “Voices Set Free,” and a limited number of T-shirts. 

I will also be walking in Klamath Falls, Cave Junction, Astoria, Garibaldi and on nature trails, parks and the Willamette Esplanade around Portland through the summer.  Watch Compassionate Gathering’s Facebook page ( and Compassionate Gathering’s blog at 
( for more information about walks.  To join us in Hillsboro, contact me, Virginia Jones at or 503-866-6163 or Louise Baushcard at

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