|Though it is too horrible to think about, we must. More importantly, we must do more than simply think about it.
Over the past month Oregon and southwest Washington have lost 18 people in the most horrible way imaginable. Men killed women. Fathers shot children. Then, six times over the past month the attackers turned the gun around and shot themselves.
The sheer number of tragedies makes this string of domestic violence almost incomprehensible. It has left many in the state reeling and wondering how to respond.
The first thing is, if you or someone you know needs help, there are resources available. Please visit the online resources to learn more.
And for those of us at DHS, we also must recognize how many of our clients and coworkers are living with this daily fear. It is easy to think that this kind of abuse happens only in families who walk through the doors of our branches, but according to a survey done last year in one branch, at least half of our staff had experienced domestic violence personally or had friends or family who had.
These events have forced all of us to look more closely at some hard truths. Help lines at Oregon's domestic and sexual violence programs answered about 189,000 calls last year. That's 517 people every day. And while I know that domestic violence affects both genders, physical harm and life-threatening danger are much more often perpetrated by men against women and children.
Even worse is that 20,000 of those requests were for shelter and too often there is no space available, so women are forced to stay in situations where they and their children are at risk.
This is unacceptable. As a state we must find a way to get women the immediate protection they need. We also must reduce the culture of violence. Fathers, husbands, and boyfriends who need it must get help, too.
Last month I wrote about the Domestic Violence Month display in the Salem DHS building lobby and what a stark reminder the red statues are of the adults and children who were murdered by a loved one. Now I wonder how long it will take until we have 18 new red statues with 18 fresh new names to add to this memorial that represents a stain on our society. And I wonder how many more it will take until we all finally step up and say enough.
To that end, I have made several personal commitments. I want all employees to know they can come forward to ask for help without fear of reprisal or confidentiality violations. I will make sure that DHS's workplace policies are enforced and support employees and their families. Our policy and state law as of January 1, 2010, prohibits discrimination against employees because they are victims and requires reasonable safety accommodations to help employees stay safe at work.
Also, an important reminder: all DHS managers are required to complete a domestic violence training course. This class helps managers identify characteristics of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. This opportunity is also open to all DHS employees. For more information about dates and times visit the DHS Learning Center and type in "domestic violence."
I want to also commit that I will never stay silent if I think that, through my words or deeds, I can do something to make a difference, whether that means offering personal help to friends or family or continuing to improve our agency's work to prevent violence and help people escape and recover. I will also work with advocates against domestic violence to support policies and laws that protect women and children, prevent violence and stop these tragedies.