Family Justice Center will open
When the Family Justice Center of Washington County opens Monday, March 26, two of its advocates have very personal perspectives on why its services are needed.
They spoke about their experiences March 12 at the Washington County Public Affairs Forum.
Hillsboro Police Chief Lee Dobrowolski, who leads the board, described his first service call as a police officer nearly 28 years ago in Salt Lake City.
The call involved a domestic violence case.
"As we were taking the male into custody, the woman who had bite marks all over her body jumped on one of the officers' backs so that we wouldn't take her husband to jail," he said. "The dynamic is incredible — and it's unpredictable — but that does not change the good that we do in the long term by intervening.
"When people know they have a place to go to be safe, that helps everyone involved."
Dobrowolski said such intervention has to start with social and legal services that will be under one roof at the center in Beaverton.
Its executive director is Toni Loch, who came in December from Green Bay, Wis., and has 25 years of experience in the field.
Loch also has personal experience with an abusive relationship when she was barely out of her teenage years.
"I still didn't get out as soon as I could have. So I certainly understand where people are … it's so complicated and so scary," she said.
"But it is never OK to hit somebody."
The center is part of the Family Justice Center Alliance, based in San Diego, and part of Alliance for HOPE International.
The center will start with a $50,000 commitment from the Washington County budget, and contributions from cities and fundraising efforts.
Although the center is not a shelter — Dobrowolski said "there is not enough shelter space in Washington County, period" — it will enable survivors to seek help ranging from restraining orders to counseling and other assistance.
It is at the Arbor House at 735 S.W. 158th Ave., served by four TriMet bus lines and close to a MAX station. (Advocates are working on a shuttle service.)
Dobrowolski said there are exceptions, but most perpetrators of domestic violence are men and most victims are women.
What perpetrators do is deprive victims of money, connections with family or friends who could otherwise help, and transportation.
"Now try to find services to escape a scenario like this when you have no money of your own and no wheels — and two small kids," Dobrowolski said. "What we are trying to do is put all of these services in one place. We are close to achieving that."
Domestic violence — not assault, robbery or murder — is the most common form of violent crime against people. In 2016, Dobrowolski said, Hillsboro alone averaged 10 such incidents per week; the rate dipped to about 8.3 per week in 2017.
"I believe the numbers are low," he said.
"Often, when a police officer or a deputy is sent to a domestic violence investigation, they do not know that is what they are going to," and the initial reports are of loud parties or disturbances.
Having services available, he said, will enable police to reduce the potential of more serious injuries or deaths — and the high costs of investigating and prosecuting murders, even if the penalty is life imprisonment instead of a death sentence.
Among those in the forum audience were Sheriff Pat Garrett and District Attorney Bob Hermann, who have endorsed the services approach.
Dobrowolski said law enforcement has come a long way from a just-the-facts approach to investigations that made some victims of domestic violence hesitant to come forward.
"We found that sometimes, the way we ask those questions and provided services retraumatized the people we dealt with," he said. "What we want to do better — and what we are getting better at every day — is making sure our system does not retraumatize people who are victims of crime."
Family Justice Center
Where: 735 S.W. 158th Ave., Beaverton (Arbor House)
When: Opening March 26; community event from 4 to 7 p.m. April 12.