PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – An audit released Tuesday by the Oregon Secretary of State’s office reveals a lack of response to domestic violence and suggests lawmakers develop a better approach and release barriers to funding services.
According to the audit, domestic violence — which the state defines as interpersonal, family, and intimate partner violence that can include physical, mental, and emotional abuse — is “widespread” in Oregon.
The audit comes as more than one-third of adults in Oregon will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes, according to the Oregon Secretary of State’s office.
The audit also cites data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which shows from 2009-2019, Oregon’s 393 fatal domestic violence incidents resulted in 532 deaths.
The audit found there are several barriers that can impact whether a domestic violence victim or survivor receives support. For example, the audit says victims may not seek help as they may face stigma, isolation, transportation, or childcare barriers. The audit also states that a lack of housing is a “principal reason” victims and survivors feel they cannot leave.
Additionally, the report found barriers within state agencies that provide services for victims and survivors of domestic violence. According to the audit, resource providers may not have the capacity to serve victims and say agencies face issues with retaining staff — citing low pay and burn-out among employees.
Next, the audit reported that “available domestic violence services do not meet existing needs.” According to the Secretary of State’s office, little financial help goes directly to domestic violence victims. Officials also note that grant funding requirements can be a barrier to addressing community needs.
Oregon also lacks central leadership when it comes to addressing domestic violence, the audit says. While providers and state agencies collaborate, officials said the state could do more to create a centralized approach and could provide data-gathering for domestic violence prevention and intervention-related action.
In a statement, Audits Director Kip Memmott says Oregon can do more to address domestic violence as the audit points out that “domestic violence in Oregon is widespread and damaging.”
The audit reports that in 2019, 15 out of Oregon’s 36 counties had at least one fatal domestic violence incident.
“Domestic violence is pervasive, immensely harmful, and often fatal,” Memmott said. “This is an area where state government can do more to help. As auditors, we are uniquely positioned to provide state leaders with information and offer potential solutions on critical issues of public health and safety.”
The audit says services for domestic violence victims and survivors should be widespread — including emergency housing, help navigating the legal system, childcare, and mental health care.
The audit offers several solutions aimed at policymakers — saying Oregon needs an “overarching strategy” to successfully address domestic violence.
“Currently, many state agencies have roles to play. Unfortunately, there is no single state agency or entity responsible for coordinating a comprehensive statewide response or measuring the overall impact of ongoing efforts,” the audit said.
The audit recommends policymakers develop a statewide strategy to centralize resources and collect data on regional police reports, hospital injury and fatality data, civil protection orders, and agency outputs.
The audit also suggests lawmakers make flexible state funds permanent budget items rather than addressing needs through one-time funding.
“I am horrified at the numbers in this report showing how pervasive and dangerous domestic violence is, both nationwide and in Oregon. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a time to recognize and reflect on what we can do to address this violence, and the auditors have done just that with this report,” Secretary of State Lavonne Griffin-Valade said in a statement.
She continued “I would like to express my gratitude to the Oregon Audits Division staff for their work, and I encourage state leaders to read the report and consider the actions suggested.”
The Oregon Department of Human Services offers a list of resources for shelters and legal support from the Oregon Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence website.
Additionally, the Oregon Department of Justice has resources for shelters and other crisis centers.
The National Sexual Assault Hotline is also available at 1-800-656-HOPE.