Oregon needs better coordination to address domestic violence, report finds

By Ryan Haas (OPB)
Oct. 31, 2023 8:56 p.m.

Auditors with the secretary of state’s office found 532 people died in the state as a result of domestic violence between 2009 and 2019.

The Oregon secretary of state’s office released an advisory report Tuesday, calling for state officials to do more to address domestic violence.

The report analyzes the dispersed roles many state and local agencies take in helping domestic violence victims and survivors recover from abusive relationships.

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Auditors with the secretary of state’s office found 532 people died in the state as a result of domestic violence between 2009 and 2019. In 2019 alone, nearly half of Oregon counties saw at least one death related to domestic abuse.

“I am horrified at the numbers in this report showing how pervasive and dangerous domestic violence is, both nationwide and in Oregon,” Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade said in a statement. “I encourage state leaders to read the report and consider the actions suggested.”

The report notes that more than a third of adults in the state have experienced domestic violence in their lifetimes, and that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed additional strains on the social services meant to address the issue.

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Because so many state and local agencies can be involved in helping victims of domestic violence, auditors found it may not be easy for people to find support. The report’s authors suggested Oregon should work toward a more centralized response that reduces the time it takes for a person to get help.

States such as Ohio and Rhode Island are collecting more data on the issue, and auditors suggested Oregon could pursue similar efforts. Other states, such as Indiana and Pennsylvania, have made housing a core focus of their domestic violence reduction plans.

Auditors said Oregon’s lack of affordable housing can be a significant barrier for people trying to leave violent domestic relationships because they may have nowhere else to go. The report recommended the state continue to focus on making shelter and transitional housing available to prevent people in domestic violence situations from becoming homeless.

During a single day in September 2022, Oregon providers reported delivering domestic violence services to nearly 1,700 adults and children, with the majority of those services being housing.

Auditors also noted that more money may be needed to help people leave violent situations.

“The [federal] Temporary Assistance for Domestic Violence Survivors grant, a primary source of direct victim funding, only provides up to $1,200 over a 90-day period,” auditors wrote in the report. “The grant was originally intended to help pay emergency rent, but the amount has not increased since 1997, leaving it too low to cover the current price of most rentals.”

Beyond direct services like housing, auditors said, the state should do more to provide outreach to communities that are underserved by current domestic violence programs, such as communities of color, tribal nations and people living in rural areas.

Read the full report online.

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