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Two Critical Milestones in our Efforts to Prevent DV

Hello DHS,

Violence against both women and men is a serious public safety and public health problem in Oregon, and a report released just recently documented rates of domestic and intimate partner violence that are extremely disturbing: More than 1 in 3 women and more than 1 and 4 men in this country report having experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime - usually before the age of 25 and often their first experience is between the ages of 11 and 17.

Oregon's first statewide domestic violence fatality review last week reminded me that intimate partner violence affects every age group we serve in DHS - from children to seniors - in every economic class, cultural group and in every community across the state. While we might not think of emotional or verbal abuse as part of domestic violence, they are one of the leading signs that violence may occur in the future.

We talk about domestic violence every October as part of DV Awareness Month -but because of its impact on our core mission - safety, health and independence -- this is an issue I believe we need to talk about more just once a year. I'm talking about it today because we're about to reach two critical milestones in our efforts to impact this epidemic in Oregon.

Because of work happening right now, by July 1st of this year we should have DV advocates co-locating in our offices in every one of our districts throughout Oregon. That is a big step forward for this agency and for this state. Their purpose is to partner with us to identify, respond and reduce violence occurring among our clients. Where this approach has been taken before now, the evidence is clear that this model strengthens the work we do on behalf of survivors.

Ultimately, our goal is to stop domestic violence before it occurs, and as part of that effort the statewide DV fatality review team I've already mentioned is reviewing its first case. This is really a Continuous Improvement event - the outcome of which we hope will be to identify opportunities to increase access for survivors to culturally and linguistically appropriate support systems, hold offenders accountable for their actions, and stop violence before it starts.

To reinforce a message I delivered back in October, it's also important that you know that our mission of safety and protection applies not only to our clients, but to you as a DHS employee. Looking at the statistics, many of you have been - or know someone who has been - a victim of domestic violence. In fact, 74% of women who are employed are harassed by their partners at work. Oregon law provides substantial protections for employees who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.

If you or someone you know is the victim of these crimes - please get the help you or they need to be safe. I've included with this message some important information about how to make that happen so please take a look at it.

Every day we have an opportunity as an organization to make a difference in the lives of people we serve. Please take some time this week to consider how the issue of domestic violence and sexual assault impacts the work that you do and consider the opportunities you have to do something about it.

There is also a great resource page at: http://www.oregon.gov/BOLI/dvsas.shtml

Have a great week.

~ Erinn

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