Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum today released a new report discussing the obstacles to the effective delivery of fair and unbiased justice to crime victims and survivors, particularly those from communities impacted by inequity. The report makes a series of recommendations for DOJ and DOJ-funded programs. The Attorney General also announced that Oregon DOJ’s Crime Victim and Survivor Services Division (CVSSD) has awarded $5 million in grants to twelve Oregon non-profits to support specific culturally responsive victim services throughout the state.
The report is based on 24-hours of comments from Oregonians over a series of twelve “Community Conversations” held last year. Originally intended to be held in-person as a continuation of conversations from 2019’s rural Oregon Community Conversations, when COVID-19 hit, the facilitators at the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) pivoted to a statewide virtual format. The virtual format allowed over 1000 participants to join from all corners of the state.
“I was honored to deliver welcoming remarks at each of our Community Conversations. We heard so many diverse voices, and I want to thank every single Oregonian who participated in these important—and timely—events,” said AG Rosenblum. “Our work listening, and also taking concrete actions, is just beginning. Hopefully, the outcomes from these conversations will help us at DOJ turn the corner in providing better support to ALL Oregonians, and especially those most impacted by inequity.”
The Community Conversations series, while open to all, included separate sessions to prioritize voices from: 1) LGBTIQA2S+, 2) Religious Minority, 3) Latinx, 4) Black/African American, 5) Asian and Pacific Islander, 6) Undocumented and Migrant Farm Worker, 7) Houseless, Mental Illness, and Addictions, 8) American Indian and Alaska Native, 9) Deaf and Hard of Hearing, 10) Disabilities and 11) Refugee and Immigrant communities. These Oregon communities were selected because they experience higher levels of victimization and lower levels of seeking and receiving services, as reflected in national data and research findings. Future Community Conversations will include separate sessions for Blind and Low Sight, Asian, Pacific Islander, and people of color communities more broadly.
The Community Conversations sessions used stacking rules, the process by which voices from the community impacted by inequity were prioritized for speaking and input time. Throughout the sessions, participants shared common experiences, service gaps, and recommendations. Themes included the need for better community engagement and information sharing, building trust, ensuring access, promoting safety, sharing power, and more.
The report will be distributed to members of the Oregon legislature, advocacy groups and other stakeholders. A list of action items that Oregon DOJ could immediately implement is included in the report. Examples include:
- Develop training for advocates, volunteers, and boards in victim and survivor service programs that address cultural responsiveness, bias, privilege, equity, and historical and intergenerational trauma.
- Make Oregon DOJ’s complaint system for its programs more publicly available.
- Create an online list of ADA accessibility coordination or points of contact within DOJ programs and DOJ-funded programs for ease of access.
- Make virtual accommodations for DOJ events, trainings, etc. available after COVID-19.
This year, Oregon DOJ’s Crime Victim and Survivor Services Division created a new grant opportunity to increase culturally specific and accessible services through existing non-profits. The grant is funded with federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funds. VOCA is a major funding source for victim services throughout Oregon and DOJ administers these funds.
Twelve Oregon non-profits received grants amounting to over $5 million:
- The African Youth & Community Organization (AYCO): The grant funding will serve victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and hate crimes for the North African refugee community in the Portland metro area and in Ontario, Oregon.
- Muslimahs United: The grant funding will serve Muslim women with a focus on Muslim women of color who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, hate crimes, stalking and general victimization in the Portland Metro area.
- Bridges Oregon: The grant funding will serve victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, hate and bias, child abuse and general victimization who are Deaf, Deafblind, or Hard of Hearing across Oregon.
- Disability Rights Oregon: The grant funding will support victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, hate and bias, stalking, child abuse and all other types of criminal victimization, for people with disabilities of all ages, across Oregon.
- El Programa Hispano Católico: The grant funding will expand access to advocacy and mental health care for Latinx and Indigenous victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in the Portland metro area.
- Raphael House of Oregon: The grant funding will expand services for Latinx survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and child abuse in the Portland metro area.
- Center for Hope and Safety: The grant funding will expand services for Latinx, undocumented Oregonians, immigrants, migrant farm workers, asylum seekers and refugees who are victims of sexual assault and stalking in the Mid-Willamette Valley region.
- Bradley Angle: The grant funding will expand services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, asexual and two-spirit + victims of domestic violence in the Portland metro area and across Oregon.
- Northwest Family Services: The grant funding will serve Latinx victims of domestic violence in the Portland metro region by supporting Casa Esperanza, Northwest Family Services’ Latinx domestic violence shelter with a day/night shelter advocate and an outreach and education advocate.
- Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon/Russian Oregon Social Services: The grant funding will expand services to Russian speaking immigrants and refugees who are victims of domestic violence or sexual assault within the Portland Metro area.
- Lutheran Community Services Northwest: The grant funding will support immigrant and refugee victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, hate and bias, child abuse and general victimization in the Portland metro region.
- Oregon Abuse Advocates & Survivors in Service: The grant funding will focus on Black and African American adult survivors of child sexual assault within the Portland metro and Willamette Valley regions.
“I am genuinely hopeful that with the recommendations in the report of the Community Conversations—and these grants—DOJ will move further along the path to holistically address issues of access, discrimination, bias and hate throughout Oregon,” said AG Rosenblum.
The Attorney General thanked DOJ Civil Rights Director Fay Stetz-Waters, DOJ Bias Response Coordinator Johanna Costa, CVSSD Grant Fund Coordinator Benjamin Bradshaw, and CVSSD Director Shannon Sivell for their work facilitating the conversations and preparing the report.
The Oregon Department of Justice is led by Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and serves as the state’s law firm.