‘How far we’ve come’: Board proclaims October 2022 Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October 28, 2022

As a member of Raphael House’s Domestic Violence Recovery Mentor Team, Ashley Anne Crook knows firsthand the importance of lived experience when it comes to serving domestic violence survivors.

The peer support program, funded by Multnomah County, serves survivors who are also experiencing addiction. As people in recovery and who’ve survived domestic violence  themselves, the program’s four recovery mentors walk step by step with participants as they rebuild their lives.

“If we want to center survivors’ voices, that’s a very big step,” Crook said Thursday, Oct. 27, as the Board of Commissioners proclaimed October 2022 Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Multnomah County. “We are able to reach survivors in ways that, however well-meaning, some advocates aren’t able to.”

Multnomah County observes Domestic Violence Awareness Month every year. Throughout the month of October, the County’s Domestic and Sexual Violence Coordination Office (DSVCO) organizes communitywide events that honor workers and recognize the lives harmed by, and lost to, domestic violence. 

The office provides a range of of trauma-informed and culturally responsive services to survivors of domestic and sexual violence and other community members. Programs offer ongoing connection with advocates, survivor support groups, economic empowerment programs, credit remediation assistance, and housing, legal and other support services.

“We need to keep lifting our understanding of domestic violence and, in particular, keep building the understanding that this is not a private issue, this is not a family issue, this is not a women’s issue: It is a community problem and a community issue,” said Commissioner Susheela Jayapal, who sponsored the proclamation.

(Left to right): Ashley Anne Crook, a domestic violence recovery mentor, and Alix Sanchez, Domestic Violence Service Coordination Office director.

Nationally, one in three women will experience domestic violence. And every day, on average, three women die at the hands of an intimate partner. Domestic violence affects people of all backgrounds, regardless of race, gender or socioeconomic class. 

Exposure to domestic violence also harms children and increases their risk of experiencing further trauma. One in 15 children are exposed to domestic violence each year, and 30 to 60 percent of those who commit intimate partner violence also abuse children in the home. 

People with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ community, immigrants, older adults, and women of color are disproportionately affected by domestic violence. These impacts are often directly connected to systemic obstacles and historical inequities in service systems.

Domestic violence is also a leading cause of homelessness among families in the United States and is a significant contributing factor to unemployment and poverty. Nearly 8 million days of paid work each year are lost because of domestic violence issues — the equivalent of more than 32,000 full-time jobs.

“We know we have to do more,” Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson said. “We need law enforcement and assistant district attorneys who are knowledgeable and skilled with working with survivors as they bring cases forward so they can get justice in our system.” 

COVID-19 has caused a sharp increase in domestic violence, both in frequency and severity. Survivors saw their resources and options for safety constrained due to stay-home orders and the economic fallout of the pandemic. In response, program leaders and advocates have worked creatively to address the unique needs of survivors and their families.

“Even at the height of COVID, survivors in Multnomah County could find not just one, but many open doors to support and services,” said Alix Sanchez, who directs the County’s Domestic and Sexual Violence Coordination Office. “We’ve continued to innovate and evolve our service provision to remain responsive to the needs of survivors across the County.” 

In the past year alone, Sanchez said, the office fielded over 10,000 calls last year for assistance navigating resources. The office and its partners, including the Joint Office of Homeless Services, also housed 389 families and prevented homelessness for more than 500 individuals.

“Alix, thank you, beyond words, for your continued work,” Commissioner Sharon Meieran said. “The profound dedication and commitment that you have shown and all that you have accomplished in this work over years — thank you.”

Commissioners said the County is committed to protecting those harmed by domestic violence, safeguarding the wellbeing of children who have been affected by domestic and sexual violence, and providing appropriate interventions and accountability for domestic violence offenders. 

Chair Deborah Kafoury, who said her childhood home was a de facto domestic violence shelter, said domestic violence services have come a long way. She said she would often wake up in the morning and there would be someone at her dining table, a mom and a kid, who had nowhere else to go.

‘I’m always so impressed to hear about the great work that we are doing with our community partners,” Chair Kafoury said. “How far we’ve come.”