ANOTHER VOICE: Working together to prevent domestic violence

In Oregon, we have one of the highest rates of sexual assault in the nation. In the last decade, more than 205 Oregonians has lost their lives to intimate partner violence and nearly three-quarters of those deaths have occurred in the last four years.

With October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, it is important to give recognition to this problem. Additionally, year-round, it is imperative that we raise awareness and make progress toward decreasing the number of victims impacted by domestic and sexual violence.

As we know, having a safe and stable home environment also makes a difference in the ability for our children to do well in school. If we can break the cycle of violence in our homes, we can improve various other aspects of our community and grow together to build successful, safe and stable futures for our children and families.

Throughout our communities in HD 52, there are nonprofit organizations providing life-saving services with limited resources. HAVEN in The Dalles, Helping Hands Against Violence in Hood River, and Clackamas Women’s Services are all dedicated to combating sexual and domestic violence and helping survivors of these awful crimes.

Despite their best efforts, they are not able to serve all of those who need their services and like many other sectors, their job has been made more difficult by limited funding and shrinking budgets. Despite the increase in need, these organizations are simply unable to fill requests for safety and shelter.

In the last biennium alone, more than two requests for emergency shelter every hour of every day could not be met due to a lack of space and the means to acquire it.

In Salem, we did our best to grab this problem by the root and promote education and prevention tools as a way to reduce the number of crimes and lower the numbers of victims. In 2013, my colleagues and I fully funded the Oregon Domestic & Sexual Violence Services Fund in House Bill 5018.

ODSVS is the foundational funding for the most basic and important victims services. The emergency shelters, safety planning, counseling, medical and legal advocacy that these programs provide across Oregon are literally lifesaving.

These nonprofit domestic and sexual violence services reduce re-assault by nearly 70 percent. The domestic and sexual violence programs throughout Oregon, including Tribal communities, strengthen the community by not only assisting victims as they face the trauma inflicted upon them but by also by participating as a critical part to the multi-disciplinary response.

The reach and impact of these vital services are apparent throughout our community, as parents retain their jobs, remain in their homes with their children, recover their safety and the next generation is given a small chance to break the cycle of violence. In Salem we funded a vital component of a comprehensive solution because the cost of not doing so was simply too great.

While the problem reaches across Oregon, there is much that we can do in our local communities. For instance, the Hood River Helping Hands Annual Auction Gala is on Nov. 2 at Springhouse Cellar Winery.

I would encourage as many of you as possible to join in, attend, and support them if you are able, as well as your other local services as much as possible as we tackle this problem together, as neighbors, as a community and as a state.

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