PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Since 1987, October has been recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The Family Justice Center of Washington County is one of many nonprofit organizations nationwide that uses this month to raise awareness of the pressing issue of domestic violence.
On Oct. 11, there will be a public event called Gathering of Hope in honor of the month. The event, held at Hillsboro Civic Center, will feature a survivor speaker, a candle-lighting and vigil, a proclamation and more to shed light on domestic violence victims in Oregon.
According to FJCWC, 40% of women, 36% of men and 66% of children in Oregon experience violence and abuse. These statistics are higher than the national average.
Rachel Schutz is the executive director of FJCWC which was founded in 2018. The Beaverton-based center hosts several agencies so that it can act as a one-stop shop for people facing domestic violence.
“We wanted to pull down all the barriers, or as many as we were able to, in order to get the services folks need when they’re facing these sorts of crises,” Schutz said.
One thing that FJCWC emphasizes is the power of breaking the cycle of violence through breaking the silence on violence. Many survivors of domestic violence endured the problem for years before actually getting help, because of how isolating it can be.
For men in particular, there is a stigma that discourages them from wanting to find help.
“It’s just a different kind of victim-blaming where you’re using masculinity to create that blame,” Schutz said. “We see a lot of victim-blaming and all of it is very damaging. We see it on the female side. We see it in the queer community. We see it in the BIPOC community. And we also see it in the male community, that there’s just different kinds of blame that are used, but all of it is deeply impactful and is deeply harmful to survivors getting the help and finding the safety that they need.”
Domestic violence or abuse doesn’t have one particular look. Because this form of abuse is often cyclical, there could even be someone experiencing these issues who doesn’t know that they are because it’s become so normalized in their household.
“Domestic violence or domestic abuse is any pattern of control or power behaviors, in domestic violence in particular, over an intimate partner to try to keep them inside of the perpetrator’s control,” Schutz said.
Experts say abuse manifests in a variety of ways. It can be physical, sexual, emotional, financial or even spiritual. To meet the different needs of survivors, FJCWC has many programs and services. They are able to provide counseling, financial aid, legal aid, restraining orders, housing assistance, safety planning and more.
For anyone who has a loved one facing domestic violence and wants to lead them to these resources or give them advice, Shutz says it’s important to be understanding of their situation and ask them what they want.
“One thing that’s very important to understand about abuse is that it is long-term and it is cyclical, and the abuser has conditioned that individual to believe certain things to believe that there’s no hope or there’s no way that they could get out,” she said. “As the friend [it’s about] providing the information about the resources, and then helping them access when they choose to access.”
Accessing housing is one challenge for survivors of domestic violence, so FJCWC partners with the Domestic Violence Resource Center which offers a number of housing options.
Monika’s House Shelter — Washington County’s only confidential domestic violence shelter — can house more than 200 adults, children and even their pets. In addition, Mary Mac House is a transitional house for survivors who need stability and shelter until they are able to find a permanent home. Sojourner’s House is the more permanent option, with 30 apartments dispersed throughout the region, that can support survivors for several years.
“If you have any questions, any concerns, if you’re a survivor or you’re trying to support a survivor, or you just want to learn more, reach out to call our number. It connects with our partners 24/7 and we will be there to support you,” Schutz said.
FJCWC can be reached at 503-430-8300.