|October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the powerful display in HSB lobby of the victim silhouettes always reminds me of how extensive and damaging domestic violence really is. The abuse can be emotional, financial and mental, as well as physical or sexual -- and it is a significant problem in our state and for the people we serve at DHS.
Nearly one in three women report that they have experienced violence by a partner, including threats, physical or sexual assaults and stalking. Those acts of violence also affect children, and domestic violence is one of the most common family stress factors in cases where a child has been abused or neglected. Last year, there were more than 9,000 allegations of abuse or neglect toward seniors and people with disabilities who were living at home or with relatives.
DV Awareness Month art display in the HSB lobby
The truth is that anyone can be a victim of domestic violence.
The statistics are shocking, but the good news is that we continue to make progress in increasing awareness of the warning signs and working with our staff and partner agencies to reduce domestic violence.
This month, our Domestic Violence Council makes its statewide Awards of Excellence to Rebecca Swearingen, assistant executive director of Saving Grace in Prineville, and Barbara Riley, DHS Self-Sufficiency lead worker from The Dalles.
Rebecca has been a tireless advocate for children, teens and women through her work as a sexual assault advocate, sexual assault program manager, outreach office manager and most recently as the assistant executive director. She serves on the board of the Oregon Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, and has been a member of the Attorney General's Sexual Assault Task Force since 2002. Barbara is considered a domestic violence case specialist in The Dalles and Hood River DHS offices, and her bilingual skills have proved very valuable in assisting Oregon's changing population with issues related to domestic violence. As a survivor herself, she brings a unique perspective to her work with clients, co-workers and advocates.
Rebecca's boss says, "She combines a big compassionate heart with the ability to get a lot of things done."
I love that.
A big heart combined with the ability to get things done is something that can also be said of Barbara and many employees at DHS. That's the why most of us work here: we see a need, and we want to make a difference through our daily work.
For employees and managers, we provide tools and education to recognize domestic violence patterns in order to increase support services to victims and their families.
One important way we do this is through the domestic violence awareness and policy training that every manager at DHS completes. Because many victims of domestic violence seek support from their supervisors or co-workers, this training is essential to our employees and their families.
Additionally, we strongly support Oregon's law that allows employees to take leave in order to seek legal or law enforcement assistance to ensure the health and safety of the employee, to seek medical treatment or recover from injuries, to receive counseling from a licensed mental health professional or clergy, to obtain services from a victim service provider or to relocate or make an existing home safe.
As with so many of our goals, we are making good progress but there is more to be done. We all have important roles to play -- at work, at home and in our communities -- to ensure that Oregonians are independent, healthy and safe.