Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive and/or violent tactics perpetrated by one person against a family member or intimate partner, with the goal of establishing and maintaining power and control over that person.
Domestic violence can happen in all kinds of intimate relationships, including married couples, people who are dating, couples who live together, people with children in common, same-sex or gender-nonconforming partners, people who were formerly in a relationship with the person abusing them, and teen dating relationships.
Information for survivors and victims
The first step we suggest is contacting an advocate. They can listen to your situation, provide support and help you understand risks and consider your options.
If your safety or well-being is threatened by a family member or intimate partner, consider the possibility of leaving, either to a trusted family member/friend or to an emergency domestic violence shelter. However, attempting to leave an abusive situation can itself be extremely dangerous.
Emergency domestic violence shelters
Individuals and families who are escaping domestic violence may seek temporary refuge at an emergency domestic violence shelter, generally operated by the advocacy program in that community. Unfortunately, the need for emergency shelter beds is far greater than the space available. As a result, to ensure the limited available space in shelters is distributed fairly and equitably, many programs have been forced to institute waiting lists and screening procedures.
In some circumstances, if local shelter bed space is unavailable or unsuitable, advocacy programs may be able to provide survivors with hotel/motel vouchers or arrange for survivors to be transferred to another shelter in a different area. The availability of these options varies, based upon each program's available funding, relationships with local hotels and motels, agreements with other domestic violence shelters, and other factors. Inquire with your local domestic violence advocacy program for more information.
Pets and companion animals
Pets often become an integral part of a person's life; indeed, many owners consider their animals to be members of their family/kinship unit, equally deserving of love and affection as humans. Domestic abusers and stalkers often exploit this relationship, threatening to harm pets as a means of maintaining power and control over their victims. For these reasons, a growing number of domestic violence emergency shelters are welcoming survivors' pets, with some restrictions.
- Charles R. Ullman & Associates: When Pets Become Victims, too: Pet Safety in a Home with Domestic Violence (link is external)
- Charles R. Ullman & Associates: Finding Shelter from Domestic Violence for Your Pet (link is external)
- Charles R. Ullman & Associates: Pet Custody and Divorce (link is external)
Calling the police and filing a criminal complaint
This approach involves filing a report with law enforcement, which will initiate a criminal investigation and may lead to the filing of criminal charges against the abuser.
BE AWARE: Oregon is a domestic violence "mandatory arrest" state.
This means law enforcement officers (police officers, sheriff's deputies, state troopers, etc.) are required by law to arrest any assailant(s) if the responding officers find probable cause that an assault has occurred, an assailant has threatened physical harm, and/or the officer has reason to believe that an assault will occur. This law applies to abuse occurring between intimate partners, family members, and/or individuals living together in the same residence (for more information, see Oregon Revised Statutes § 133.055 (link is external)).
Arresting the primary aggressor can often be a life-saving intervention, as the physical separation between victims/survivors and abusers can often provide an opportunity for a victim/survivor to safely escape the abusive situation. However, arrests can also be risky for the victim/survivor when the abuser is released, and can also carry other risks and implications.
Court-issued protection orders
Commonly referred to as "restraining orders", victims of domestic violence in the state of Oregon can petition the courts to issue a Family Abuse Protection Act (FAPA) order, regardless of whether a victim has reported the abuse to the police or filed criminal charges. Filing for a FAPA order is free, and victims do not need an attorney to get one. For more information about protection orders for victims of domestic violence, contact an advocate in your area.
Fair housing rights and housing discrimination
Survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking are entitled to certain protections under Oregon landlord-tenant law. Additionally, discrimination against residents of public housing who have experienced domestic violence is prohibited by federal law, and may constitute a breach of a person's civil rights. Under these laws, survivors are not to be discriminated against based upon violence perpetrated against them. These laws also provide avenues for breaking or splitting leases to help facilitate escape from an abusive situation or to legally remove perpetrators. For more information, click here to find an advocate or contact the Fair Housing Council of Oregon (link is external).
Re-establishing a safe, independent and stable life after escaping abuse is often a complex and difficult undertaking for survivors. The resources listed below may be able to provide support and assistance.
Counseling and therapy services
Being subjected to abuse is highly traumatizing for many (if not most) people who experience it. To support survivors in their process of healing, a variety of individual therapy and support groups are available. Click here to locate counseling and therapy services near you.
Economic empowerment and financial guidance
Many victims of domestic abuse are forced into financial dependence and even debt by their abuser, as another way for the abuser to exert power, control and entrapment. To help survivors help themselves, financial advocacy and economic empowerment services can include providing survivors with basic money management education, individual development savings accounts (IDAs) and other forms of economic justice.
Many abusers are also the only source of income for the family, which can make escaping an abusive partner even more complicated. In these circumstances, survivors of domestic violence are often eligible for numerous government programs such as Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP; aka: “food stamps”), WIC, and crime victims' compensation.
Public assistance programs and their recipients have been unfairly stigmatized as “free-loaders” and worse. The Coalition strongly believes that there is no shame in using these programs. Programs like SNAP and cash payments for needy families are often crucial to helping individuals and families that have experienced abuse to attain self-sufficiency and independence. Still, whether or not to apply for public assistance is ultimately a personal decision.
For survivors of domestic violence who choose to apply for public assistance, many DHS self-sufficiency offices have agreements with their local domestic violence advocacy program to host co-located advocates on-site. These advocates are specially-trained to provide support for domestic violence survivors who are seeking DHS services.
The concept of "transitional housing" comes from the broader social services world; it generally refers to low-cost housing options that are an intermediate step for unhoused individuals and families who no longer need or qualify for emergency shelter services, but are not yet able to independently obtain stable housing. A growing number of advocacy programs are also operating transitional housing programs that are specifically for people fleeing domestic violence.
If you have had a negative experience with an advocacy program, we recommend talking directly with that organization's executive director or other management personnel. If that fails to resolve the dispute, or you feel that the organization has treated you unfairly, you have the option of submitting a formal complaint to the Oregon Department of Human Services.
The Oregon Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence's primary responsibility is to provide training, research and other support to our member programs, in the interest of better serving survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking throughout the state. We do not have regulatory oversight or supervisory authority over our member programs.
Types of domestic violence
Abusive behaviors are not symptoms that someone is angry or out of control. An abuser makes a deliberate choice to exert power and control over their partner.
- Misuse of objects to strike the victim (belt, umbrella, etc).
- Striking objects, the wall, etc. in view of the victim as a threat of violence
Emotional abuse is a tool used by those who want to make their partners feel scared, crazy, worthless, or responsible for the abuse. The abuser's goal is control over the victim. Emotional abuse may include:
- Making jokes about the victim
- Criticizing the victim's competence
- Ignoring the victim's feelings
- Withholding affection as a form of punishment
- Blaming the victim for all problems
- Yelling at the victim
- Humiliating the victim in front of others
- Accusing the victim of being the abusive partner
- Threatening to take the children away from the victim
- Threatening physical violence
- Threatening suicide to punish the victim
Sexual abuse is one of the least discussed, but most common, forms of domestic violence. Sexual abuse may include:
- Sexual jokes that make the victim uncomfortable
- Treating women as sex objects
- Criticizing the victim's sexuality
- Using sexual jealousy as a tool of control
- Uncomfortable or unwanted touch
- Withholding sex as punishment
- Demanding sex
- Flaunting affairs
- Sex after beatings
- Sexual torture
Social abuse is used to isolate the victim from others in the community. The fewer people the victim is connected with, the more control the abuser has over the victim. Examples of social abuse include:
- Insisting that the couple spend all their time together
- Discouraging the victim from seeing friends or family
- Forbidding the victim to see friends or family
- Monitoring the victim's mail or phone calls
- Checking the odometer
- Restricting access to the car or car keys
- Telling others the victim is crazy or abusive
Abusers often attempt to establish financial control over victims. Victims who are financially dependent on abusers have fewer resources for escape. Financial abuse includes:
- Making all financial decisions for the household
- Keeping financial secrets
- Monitoring the victim's spending
- Controlling the victim's access to cash
- Refusing to let the victim work
- Forcing the victim to turn over income to the abuser
Batterers' intervention programs
In some jurisdictions, convicted domestic violence offenders may be ordered by the court to attend a batters' intervention program (BIP) for a specified amount of time. Batterers' intervention programs attempt to educate abusers about the impact and implications of their behavior, in an attempt to encouraging them to change their behavior.
The success rates of batterers' intervention programs vary widely and are difficult to measure, but the Coalition welcomes these programs, particularly those that work in collaboration with their local advocacy programs, as another component of community coordinated responses to domestic violence.
Note that batterers' intervention programs are NOT comparable to anger management classes or marriage counseling, both of which are unsuitable and potentially dangerous responses to domestic violence. Domestic violence is not caused by uncontrolled anger or interpersonal conflict; domestic violence is both a crime and a choice, specifically the choice by abusers to use methods of physical, emotional, sexual, social and/or financial abuse to wield power and control over their victims.
Statewide standards for batterers' intervention programs are set forth within various Oregon Administrative Rules (OARs), which are maintained and enforced by the Batterer Intervention Program (BIP) Advisory Committee (link is external), a multi-disciplinary leadership body housed within the Oregon Department of Justice - Crime Victims' Services Division.
External links and additional resources
The Family Violence Coordinating Council (FVCC) (link is external) is a multi-agency, a multi-jurisdictional forum for the coordination of domestic violence intervention efforts within Multnomah County
Multnomah County Domestic Violence Coordination Office (link is external) acts as a community resource for the prevention of, and intervention in, domestic violence by providing information, consultation, and technical assistance to community groups who want to address this important issue.
Oregon Department of Justice - Crime Victims' Services Division (link is external) seeks to reduce the impact of crime on victims' lives by supporting statewide victim services programs, promoting victims' rights, and providing victims access to information and resources.
Oregon Law Center (link is external) provides free and low-cost civil legal (NOT criminal) services to eligible Oregon residents.
Oregon Law Help (link is external) is a website providing free Oregon-specific legal reference information.
Partnership for Safety and Justice (PSJ) (link is external) is a Portland-based nonprofit that works with people convicted of crime, survivors of crime, and the families of both to advocate for public safety policy changes and increased social and community support for survivors of crime.
Angel Flight West (link is external) is an organization that ordinarily provides MEDEVAC and Aeromedical Evacuation services to acute-care patients needing air transportation. However, in certain circumstances, they are able to help relocate survivors of domestic violence who are attempting to flee an abuser.
End Violence Against Women International (EVAWI) (link is external) provides multidisciplinary training and expert consultation regarding crimes of sexual assault and domestic violence.
National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) (link is external) provides training and assistance to the statewide and territorial coalitions against domestic violence. It also furthers public awareness of domestic violence and changes beliefs that condone intimate partner violence.
National Center on Domestic & Sexual Violence (NCDSV) (link is external) designs, provides, and customizes training and consultation, influences policy, promotes collaboration and enhances diversity with the goal of ending domestic and sexual violence.
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) (link is external) organizes for collective power by advancing transformative work, thinking and leadership of communities and individuals working to end the violence in our lives.
National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (link is external) engages with and learns from, informs and supports systems, organizations, communities, and individuals to strengthen capacity to effectively address domestic violence and intersecting issues.
VAWnet: The National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women (link is external), a project of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV), is a comprehensive and easily accessible online collection of full-text, searchable materials and resources on domestic violence, sexual violence and related issues.
Women's Law (link is external), now managed by the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), was launched to provide state-specific legal information and resources for survivors of domestic violence.