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Gov. Brown reveals she was victim of domestic violence

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Gov. Kate Brown said Friday, Sept. 30, that she has been a victim of domestic abuse. The revelation came during a debate at the City Club of Portland.PORTLAND — During a heated exchange with her opponent in the gubernatorial race Friday, Gov. Kate Brown revealed that she has been a victim of domestic violence.

Brown made the disclosure during the second debate with GOP gubernatorial nominee Dr. William “Bud” Pierce, hosted by the City Club of Portland at the Sentinel hotel.

Moderator Laura Gunderson of The Oregonian asked a city club member’s question about what the candidates would do to improve the lot of women. The member referenced a report last week by the Women’s Foundation of Oregon that found Oregon women continue to be victims of domestic violence and sexual assault at high rates.

“I know what it feels like to be a victim of domestic violence,” Brown responded, emotion in her voice.

Brown’s campaign confirmed Friday that the governor has been a victim of domestic violence but declined to provide details about her experience. The perpetrator was not Brown’s husband, Dan Little, said Chris Pair, a spokesman with Brown’s campaign. The couple married in October 1997.

After the revelation, Brown spoke about her work as a lawyer representing domestic violence victims and her work in the Legislature, where she served in the House of Representatives and Senate before winning election as secretary of state.

“I know what it feels like to represent clients who can’t get restraining orders on abusive partners,” Brown continued. “That’s why I spent a number of years in the Oregon Legislature strengthening Oregon’s domestic violence and sexual assault laws, including increasing penalties for domestic violence when a child was present, including getting the first general fund dollars ever for domestic violence shelters.”

In his answer to the question, Pierce, a Salem oncologist, did not address the governor’s disclosure.

“Despite the wonderful efforts of our government leadership, Oregon finds … its women, its poor women, horribly underpaid, violence committed against them at a highest level in the country and sexual violence against them at the highest level in the country,” Pierce said.

“A woman that has great education and training and a great job is not susceptible to this kind of abuse by men,” he continued, drawing boos from the crowd.

Pierce later said that he meant that women with good jobs and resources are more likely to be able to afford lawyers and get out of abusive situations than poor women. He said he did not mean to say that women with education and a good job are not abused.

He issued an apology to Brown Friday night.

"As a physician who began medical school almost 40 years ago, and has seen many patients including women of domestic violence, I know that any women, regardless of economic status, can be subject to domestic violence and sexual abuse," Pierce said in a statement. Sexual and physical abuse "must be opposed with all efforts," he added.

"Dr. Pierce showed that he's not just out of touch with Oregonians, he doesn't exhibit even a basic understanding of the problems women face, regardless of their education level or income,” Pair said Friday. “As Governor Brown noted, she and countless other women from all walks of life have experienced domestic violence."

Brown and Pierce are seeking election to complete former Gov. John Kitzhaber’s four-year term. Kitzhaber stepped down amid an influence-peddling scandal in February 2015, shortly after his election to a fourth term in office. As then-secretary of state, Brown was next in line as governor.