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Vigilance needed to thwart domestic violence

Domestic violence and sexual assault have reached epidemic proportions in our nation. Much of the focus today is on “intimate partner violence,” which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) defines as including “physical violence, sexual violence, threats of physical or sexual violence, and emotional abuse by a current or former spouse or non-marital partner.”

As the CDC concludes, the key to eradicating this type of violence is to stop it before it begins. Understanding how domestic violence and sexual assault occurs in your community and neighborhood is an integral step in the effort to prevent this violence.

If we were to take the conclusions from the CDC’s “National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey” conducted in 2011 and apply them to Washington County’s most recent population estimate of 560,465 people — which is the certified estimate provided by Portland State University’s Center for Population Research for 2014 — we can extrapolate that:

n 25,200 women (9 percent) and 2,800 men (1 percent) in our county have experienced attempted or completed rape by an intimate partner during her or his lifetime.

n Severe physical violence was experienced by an estimated 61,600 women (22 percent) and 39,200 men (14 percent).

n Among victims of sexual violence, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, an estimated 71 percent of women and 58 percent of men first experience these types of violence before the age of 25.

n As many as 81,200 women (29 percent) and 28,000 men (10 percent) would have experienced sexual violence, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner, and have reported the violence has impacted them in some way, such as making them feel fearful or concerned for personal safety, being injured or needing services, lost days from school or work, etc.

Regardless of whether the nationwide numbers accurately reflect proportionality for the Washington County population — perhaps they’re too large or too small — there can be no question domestic violence and sexual abuse is rampant in our communities.

Just ask the workers at the various domestic violence, rape and sexual abuse hotlines across Oregon. Along with the Washington County Sheriffs’ Office and the Washington County District Attorney’s Office, there are several agencies and organizations on hand to help in Washington County and elsewhere in the metropolitan area. Among them are the Domestic Violence Resource Center; the Center for Counseling and Victims’ Services; Proyecto UNICA; and the Oregon Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.

These people and others like them witness daily the wreckage domestic violence and sexual abuse exacts in Washington County, in Oregon, and across the nation. These dedicated workers serve on the front line for helping to provide the necessary resources to help those people and stop future occurrences of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Sadly, statistics for some Oregon communities show that as many as 20 percent of teens have reported giving in to sexual activity when they didn’t want to due to peer pressure.

Weekly police logs kept by agencies in each community also tell a tale of widespread domestic and sexual violence in Washington County. It is a severe public health problem, and only through community awareness, involvement and the continued efforts of law enforcement agencies and community groups working to battle these crimes is there an opportunity to reverse this tragic and unfortunate trend for future generations.