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Taking a stand against domestic violence and sexual assault

Kathleen Ellyn

Wallowa County Chieftain

Published on October 9, 2018 1:26PM

Safe Harbors, Wallowa County’s domestic and sexual violence service provider, assisted 105 individuals in 2017.

A dozen volunteers monitor the Safe Harbors help-line 24/7, according to Jamie O’Neill, volunteer coordinator, advocate and shelter manager. Volunteers sometimes have personal stories that motivate them to help others who are victims of domestic violence, while others recognize it as an important service and they want to do their part to stop violence, she said.

Working the help-line can be an empowering and satisfying endeavor, said O’Neill, and not all calls are tense, emergency situations.

“One of the biggest things we do is provide our clients with information,” O’Neill said.

Calls are not solely concerned with physical violence. Violence does not have to be physical, but it must be hurtful. Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior where one person in the relationship uses controlling or abusive behavior to maintain power.

Psychological and emotional violence includes using children as a leverage for power, controlling money, threatening to hurt pets, children or partner, and blaming other family members for the abusers’ behavior.

In addition to meeting individuals at the emergency room or talking to them on a phone to help them contact police or get to a safe situation, help-line volunteers can also provide information to friends and relatives who want to know how to help those they love.

“Maybe they have a friend they’re worried about and want to know how to help their friend,” said O’Neill.

Help-line responders do not do is tell callers what they “ought to do” or personally enter a potentially dangerous situation themselves.

“Callers name what they need,” said O’Neill. “It is never us saying this is what you should do.”

Help-line volunteers are well trained. And Safe Harbors would like to expand their volunteer base, so they are offering a volunteer training program, set to begin Oct. 29 and running for four weeks.

The training is 40 hours and includes both online classes done at the volunteers own pace and four in-person classes that provide a historical overview of the causes of domestic violence, the Wallowa County context, and answers to questions.

If you would like to take a stand against domestic violence and sexual assault in Wallowa County as a volunteer, call Safe Harbors at 541-426-4004.

Wallowa County statistics

105 calls for assistance

95 women

10 men

82 adults

11 teens

12 children

79 reports of domestic violence

22 reports of sexual assault

4 reports of stalking


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