Domestic violence: A fight against a growing crime

Rep. Patti Smith, R-Corbett, is urging her peers to adopt a "zero tolerance" attitude toward domestic violence.

On March 25, Smith sent out 90 letters to elected officials in both the House and Senate asking them to join a grassroots citizen effort to help victims of the growing crime. Smith will also be requesting that all county and city officials within her District 52 support Project No More, a prevention program founded by Becky Thwreatt, a survivor of domestic violence.

"We've seen all too often across this nation the violence and destruction this crime can cause and the battle against abuse is really waged at the local level," said Smith.

She said by signing the "zero tolerance" proclamation presented by Thwreatt, Oregon leaders agree to give higher priority to domestic violence awareness, education and intervention programs.

Gloria Needham, one of Hood River County's two crime victim advocates, is strongly supportive of Project No More, especially if it places more an emphasis on intervention, which she believes is key to stopping abuse. Needham said service agencies within the county are also networking to help survivors start over, including assistance to file restraining orders or divorce papers and resolution of custody issues.

She said that unreported domestic violence is high within the county among the Hispanic culture, where woman are many times isolated by a language barrier and terrified of family retaliation or losing their sponsor to remain in the United States.

"Until we get past the social tolerance for domestic violence it is our belief that things will not change," said Thwreatt, who hopes Project No More becomes a national movement.

Smith said Oregon legislators need to schedule workshops that are aimed at strengthening domestic violence laws and abolishing any "legal loopholes" that allow abusers to escape punishment.

"We need to look at all ideas and solutions and then we need to tackle this problem community by community," said Smith.

Smith said Oregon legislators have already demonstrated their commitment to survivors through a bi-partisan agreement to preserve $2.5 million in funding for domestic violence programs, sparing them from the recent state budget chopping block. In addition, she said last year the following new laws were passed under the "Oregon Woman's Initiative" to help victims:

House Bill 2767 -- allows victims of domestic violence to collect unemployment benefits if health, safety or welfare would be endangered at his/her current workplace,./

House Bill 3680 -- allows introduction of evidence that the defendant has committed other acts of domestic violence if that individual is charged with a similar crime.

"We need to make it a priority to stop domestic violence and it really begins with an attitude change to promote greater awareness," Smith said.

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