May 21, 2015

Victim advocate digs hole for fence post.
Saron Nehf digs holes for fence posts.

Over the Mother’s Day holiday, Parole and Probation Officers (PPOs) from the Domestic Violence Unit dedicated their time, energy, and resources to building a security fence for a survivor and her family. Upon moving into her new home this woman and her children realized how unsafe they felt without a fence around the perimeter of the property. She turned to victim advocate Saron Nehf. Saron was able to access funds for materials but hit a roadblock when trying to find organizations that could provide inexpensive or free labor.

Jay Burke, who supervises the offender, has collaborated closely with the DA’s office and the Portland Police Bureau to ensure access to services for the survivor and her family in the past. When Jay became aware of the survivor’s need and Saron’s efforts to assist, he reached out to the rest of the DV Unit to see if they could help. “This victim has always been a strong advocate for herself” he explains, “we want to do everything we can to encourage and support her through that.”

Along with Saron and Jay, Jodell Wright, Andrew Altman, Jessica Harrison, Kim Hirota, and Keith Cokeley, as well as family and friends, gathered at the survivor’s house to construct the fence themselves. Though the task at hand was far removed from their normal work of supporting offenders and victims alike to build a stronger community, they managed to complete the work in just two days.

This isn’t surprising if you know the DV Unit, however. According to Saron, it is the “most cohesive team” she has ever worked with. “Whenever someone on the team asks for help, you will find team members responding quickly” she says, “this might mean picking up a court case, making an arrest, or building a fence. Not only does this team play well professionally, but we like each other enough to hang out off work.”

Jay echoes this sentiment about his team, and credits the inclusion of an embedded victims’ advocate for making this project possible. Jodell adds that PPOs aren’t always able to help as much as they would like to, and projects like this provide an opportunity to give to the community. While many assume that there is a bright line separating those supporting survivors and those working with offenders, the emphasis on a holistic resolution for all parties touched by crime makes Multnomah County stand out as a leader in building communities while still ensuring their safety and security.