Domestic Violence Extensive, Study Finds

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), March 30, 2004 | Go to article overview

Domestic Violence Extensive, Study Finds


Byline: Jeff Wright The Register-Guard

A new study should shake Oregonians out of their "collective denial" about the extent of domestic violence in their world, state epidemiologist Mel Kohn said Monday.

The just-released study found that one in 10 women in Oregon age 20 to 55 experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of an intimate partner over the previous five years. That works out to more than 85,000 women - including nearly 30,000 assaulted within the previous 12 months.

"What bigger women's health concern can you think of?" Kohn said. "Breast cancer is one of the most widely recognized, yet the problem of intimate partner violence is probably 10 times more prevalent."

The study comes on the heels of 11 deaths in Lane County in the past six months attributed to domestic violence. The most recent occurred Feb. 23 when Paula Benitez of Springfield was shot by her ex-husband, who then killed himself.

Benitez had sought multiple restraining orders, ultimately to no avail. Her plight wasn't uncommon: According to the Department of Human Services study, about one-fourth of physical assault victims and one-fifth of sexual assault victims had obtained a restraining order against the intimate partner who attacked them.

Local professionals said they hope the survey can help educate the public about the extent of the problem.

"When you translate all these numbers, it means 10 to 20 percent of the (women) you know are facing this in their lives," said Cheryl O'Neill, coordinator for the Lane County Domestic Violence Council.

Community leaders have already responded with a series of community forums on how to end domestic violence. The next session will be on Monday.

The survey, funded as part of a grant from the federal Centers for Disease Control, is based on telephone interviews with 2,962 Oregon women selected at random. Clearwater Research, an Idaho polling firm, conducted the survey and hired only women as telephone interviewers, Kohn said. The interviews were done in 2001 and 2002.

Last year, Lane County handled about 970 domestic violence cases and issued more than 2,300 restraining orders.

The prevalence of violence is probably higher than the report shows, Kohn said, because women were only asked about their experiences of the previous five years and not their lifetimes. Also, women without telephones, including homeless women or those in shelters and jails, weren't interviewed.

The survey "is consistent with what we know is occurring locally," said Jennifer Holland, the human services department's domestic violence resource coordinator in Eugene. …

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