Ask. Listen. Believe.
“Earlier this month, Department of Human Services Director Erinn Kelley-Siel directed the attention of DHS employees to the fact that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The numbers can be overwhelming – during 2011, Oregon domestic and sexual violence programs received 175, 295 calls for assistance and were unable to meet 20, 681 requests for shelter. The United States Department of Justice estimates that at least 25% of American women during their lifetime will experience violence at the hands of a partner, spouse or loved one.”
“The work of the Office of Adult Abuse Prevention and Investigations brings us close to many of Oregon’s victims because they are our clients and the adults that we investigate reported abuse on behalf of. They are made particularly vulnerable to abuse by virtue of their increased dependence on others, a diminished ability to communicate, disability, lack of information about abuse, or a perceived lack of credibility and limited options and resources.”
“The Crime Against People Disabilities section of the 2007 Crime Victimization Survey, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, reports that people with disabilities experience violent crimes, including domestic violence and sexual assault, at rates that are 1.5 to 2 times higher than the general population. People with cognitive functioning disabilities suffered the highest rates of violent crime than populations with other types of disabilities.”
“For the Office of Developmental Disability Services and all of our community partners, our professional responsibilities and moral obligation is to be vigilant for the potential of domestic violence involving those we support. To do this we need to ask, listen and believe.”
There are a number of indicators that might indicate someone is a victim of domestic violence, including:
- lots of injuries accompanied by stories about clumsiness, falling down stairs and running into doors;
- attempts to hide the injuries;
- no access to money, credit cards or transportation;
- having to ‘ask’ for permission from a partner before agreeing to anything;
- having little or no contact with family, friends or social networks;
- references to partner’s temper without details and;
- minimizing concerns about injuries, activities or partner’s temper.
If you see these or other signs you can:
- I’m worried about your safety because of what I’ve seen or heard. Are you all right?
- If you are being hurt, what can I do to help/support you?
- You are not to blame when someone chooses to hurt you.
- You are not to blame for someone’s abusive behavior.
- You deserve to be treated with respect.
- You and your children deserve a safe and happy life.
- You are not alone. When you are ready there are people who want to help.
If someone discloses abuse to you, be mindful of your response. It will influence their decision about accepting support or help. Try the following:
- Do not immediately question their feelings or responses to the abuse.
- Control your response and stay calm – victims shut down if they see that someone can’t handle their story.
- Ask if they need something from you to stay safe. Let them know there are resources available and that you can help them find those resources.
- Offer future support to a victim who says they don’t want or need anything right now.
When someone discloses that they are a victim of domestic violence, they are taking a step that requires tremendous courage. Your belief in what they say, free of opinion or judgment, may be the greatest source of support they could possibly receive. However, if you find yourself in a position to provide concrete resources, here are some to be familiar with:
Advocacy Center: Domestic / Dating Violence & Sexual Assault
Men Stopping Violence
National Network to End Domestic Violence
National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women
Oregon DHS: Domestic Violence Information
Mandatory Abuse Reporting:
To prevent abuse and safeguard the welfare of adults with developmental disabilities, the Oregon legislature determined it was necessary and in the public interest to require Mandatory Abuse Reporting for certain private and public officials.
A mandatory reporter (all SDRI staff, county case managers, Personal Support Workers / Domestic Employees and any other support providers contracted to serve Brokerage customers) must report to the community program or a local law enforcement agency all incidents where the reporter has reasonable cause to believe that abuse against a senior or person with an intellectual or developmental disability (including domestic violence) may have occurred.
If you believe abuse is occurring, immediately contact your county developmental disability program (typically Washington county) and also your local law enforcement agency if you believe a crime is being committed or has been committed.
You may also report abuse to Department of Human Services (DHS) by calling the Office of Investigations and Training (OIT) at 503-945-9495 or toll free at 1-866-406-4287.