By Jay Bozievich
Domestic Violence Awareness Month recently ended, but our efforts to stop domestic violence and to end the silence should continue throughout the year. That is why I signed a Declaration of Support for the Lane Domestic Violence Council in October and pledge to end the silence.
It is also why the Board of Commissioners used $78,000 in car rental taxes to provide additional funds for the Human Services Commission, $50,000 specifically to prevent deep cuts to rural service providers like Siuslaw Outreach Services. Supporting organizations like Siuslaw Outreach Services and Womenspace financially or by volunteering are great ways of helping those fleeing abusive relationships and educating the public.
Unfortunately, our local economic conditions are not helping in the fight against domestic violence. Economic stress and domestic violence are interwoven and the economy of western Lane County has created a high degree of stress. The percentage of students eligible for free or reduced lunches in the rural and coastal school districts is far above the more urban districts. Siuslaw has 46.2% of students eligible, Lincoln County has 62.8%, Reedsport has 65.4%, Blachly has 67.5% and Mapleton has 71.2% of their students eligible! This compares to 36.5% eligible in Eugene School District 4j.
Efforts to escape domestic violence can also have devastating economic impacts. Leaving a relationship might mean losing a job, housing, health care, childcare, or access to a partner’s income. Economic hardship reduces options for someone leaving a bad relationship. A person escaping a violent relationship must be able to financially support themselves (sic) and their (sic) children after leaving an abusive partner. Short term housing and assistance are available from agencies like Siuslaw Outreach Services but these are often limited due to funding.
A Michigan study found that 63% of welfare recipients experienced physical abuse while the rate for the general public is closer to 20%. 51% of those Michigan welfare recipients experienced severe physical abuse during their lifetimes. In Oregon, approximately 80% of people requesting assistance from DHS Self Sufficiency list a history of domestic violence. Economic hardship does not cause domestic violence but economic pressure in homes that experience violence adds to it. It also limits the ability to leave a violent relationship.
A growing economy offers more opportunities to those trying to free themselves from domestic violence and that is why I support efforts to create economic opportunities in Lane County. That support includes projects that would upgrade our freight rail connections that will facilitate redevelopment of the abandoned and underutilized mill sites along the Siuslaw. I have supported efforts to improve Highway 126 that brings tourist and goods to coastal Lane County. In addition, I support efforts to return to active management of our federal forests under a sustained yield model such as proposed by Congressmen DeFazio.
It is also why I supported the Women in Transition program at Lane Community College while I was on the Board of Education. This program helps women access education, training, and employment to become more self-sufficient.
We can all do our part to aid the victims of domestic violence and to help prevent it by contributing to organizations like Siuslaw Outreach Services and other agencies that provide housing, food, legal and other assistance to people impacted by domestic violence as well as education for the public. If you do not have financial resources to help, consider volunteering your time.
One of the simplest things we can do is to recognize that domestic violence is still a problem and promise not to remain silent when you become aware of it. Encourage possible victims and/or abusers to get help. Have them contact Siuslaw Outreach services at 541-997-2816 or Womenspace’s 24-Hour Crisis Line at 541-485-6513 or 800-281-2800 toll free.
Together, we can make Domestic Violence Awareness Month last the entire year and help secure successful pathways out of violence.
Jay Bozievich is a Lane County Commissioner
Reprinted with permission from the Siuslaw News