Something Eug by Dan Pegoda

Discussing Domestic and Sexual Violence

Eugene lawyer offers ideas for people in abusive relationships

So far in 2017, 496 people in the United States have died in instances of fatal domestic violence involving guns.

An average of 20,000 phone calls are made every day to domestic violence hotlines, and each year 10 million individuals “are abused by an intimate partner,” according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The nonprofit also says “twenty percent of women in the United States have been raped.”

On Oct. 15, in the wake of new revelations about Harvey Weinstein, actress Alyssa Milano posted the tweet “Me too,” asking people to use the same reply if they have also experienced sexual assault or harassment.

The social media hashtag has been used millions of times and continues to pop up across the globe.

Conveying the magnitude of sexual violence and sexual harassment is the purpose behind the campaign. In 2015, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center found that “among male students who reported perpetrating attempted or completed rape, 63 percent report multiple rape acts (an average of 5.8 rapes per serial rapist).”

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which originated from the “Day of Unity” held in 1981 to commemorate women and children survivors of domestic violence.

Michael Quillin, supervising attorney at the Domestic Violence Clinic at the University of Oregon Law School, says public needs to be educated about the prevalence of domestic violence. “One in four women experience domestic violence,” Quillin says.

‘If we were talking about whooping cough, there’d be a CDC [warning] out on the corners of every street,” he says. “This is an epidemic, and it really needs to be brought to the surface.’

The Domestic Violence Clinic started in 1999 and was housed within Lane County Legal Aid. “Our primary goal is to teach law students how to work with survivors of domestic and sexual violence and civil legal matters such as family law, restraining orders, employment issues, housing issues, typical civil/legal needs,” Quillin says. “It’s like legal aid but focusing on the needs of domestic violence and sexual abuse survivors.”

The Domestic Violence Clinic was recently awarded a $500,000 grant by the Department of Justice’s Office of Violence Against Women, which will fund and expand the clinic’s services.

Despite domestic and sexual violence statistics, many people don’t comprehend the complexities and barriers that may prevent a person from leaving a dangerous relationship.

“I think the nature of the response when a person who is not experienced in working with survivors is, ‘Why don’t they just leave?’” Quillin says. He cites a number of reasons.

“If the perpetrator of the abuse is the primary breadwinner, then they might have difficulty financially trying to get out on their own,” Quillin says. “A lot of times housing is an issue. Low-income housing is very difficult to find in Lane County. Many times they are afraid of what might happen if they leave and the children are given unsupervised parenting time with the abuser — a lot of times they will stay in order to care for the children.”

If people find themselves in an unsafe situation and are thinking about leaving, Quillin says, there are support systems in place. “If they can reach out in a safe manner and contact someone at Womenspace, that would be a good first move to try to both understand their situation as well as get help in how to leave their situation.”

You can contact the Domestic Violence Clinic via the UO School of Law, 1515 Agate Street or call 541-346-8555 for services or 541-346-8260 for information.