March 27, 2020

Life at home under Gov. Kate Brown’s important “Stay Home, Save Lives” order will be challenging for many Oregonians. But experts say the impact could be severe for domestic violence survivors and people in abusive relationships.

That’s why, as Multnomah County residents navigate Oregon’s stay-at-home order, domestic violence service providers have a message for survivors: We are still here for you.

“It’s really important for people to know that, though (domestic violence and social service providers) are operating with less face-to-face, many are still operating,” says Emmy Ritter, executive director for Raphael House of Portland. 

And the need for those services might already be growing. On Wednesday, March 25, the Portland Police Bureau reported 38 domestic violence arrests for March 13-23 — 27 percent higher than the same time in 2019. According to Alix Sanchez, the County’s Domestic Violence Program Manager, the spike in cases is not just a coincidence.

“COVID-19 and shelter-in-place orders have heightened the risk for domestic violence survivors and their children across Multnomah County,” Sanchez says. “Isolation and the increased stress created by school and childcare closures, job loss, and other similar issues, while not causes of domestic violence, are factors that can exacerbate existing power and control dynamics in relationships.”

Abusers’ behavior can take different forms during the pandemic. They may take advantage of the stay-at-home order to prevent partners from going outside. Financial abuse may be used to threaten and intimidate. They may attempt to further keep survivors away from their usual support system, which may already be limited as households are ordered to stay home. 

What You Should Do

Ritter says there is a myth circulating in the community that domestic violence service providers have stopped delivering services during the pandemic. That rumor, she says, is false.

“There’s still activity, shelters and partnerships in the community, Ritter said. Providers are even starting to get creative with more video chatting.”

Resources for domestic violence survivors are still open and available remotely, mostly via phone. Crisis lines are the main access point to services. Those who need assistance are urged to call one of the 24/7 domestic violence crisis lines:

  • Call to Safety: (503) 235-5333

  • Proyecto UNICA: (503) 232-4448

If you are in life-threatening danger, call 9-1-1. 

Public Safety System is Responding

Multnomah County’s Circuit Courts are open for essential services —  that includes people seeking protective orders

Multnomah County Justice Center at 1120 S.W. 3rd Ave

Those seeking a protective order should go to the Justice Center, at 1120 S.W. 3rd Ave. — NOT the central courthouse — from 8:15 a.m. to noon to submit petitions for orders, says Multnomah County Judge Stephen Bushong. 

Where possible, services are being provided — online and via telephone. Many protective order forms are already available online including: 

All orders must be submitted to the courts before noon to be processed that day. Members of the public with questions can email the court at Mul.Familylaw@ojd.state.or.us, court officials say. Call to Safety and Proyecto UNICA can also help connect survivors to advocacy services.

“We’re prepared to issue emergency orders and to hold contested hearings, where requested,” Bushong says. “Staff at the Justice Center can process that paperwork and get it before a judge that day — as long as it’s before noon.” 

The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office is responding to all calls for service and continues to serve protection orders, Sheriff Mike Reese says. 

“The health and safety of our community is our priority during this crisis and we will continue to work with our partner agencies to reduce domestic violence incidents and provide services to survivors,” Reese says.  

How You Can Help a Survivor

Just as COVID-19 heightens the need for us to reach out to older adults and people who are vulnerable, it’s equally important for people to look out for friends and loved ones experiencing domestic violence. 

Ritter urges friends and loved ones to stay in touch with survivors. And if something doesn’t feel right, it’s OK to call a crisis line on someone’s behalf. Under the stay-at-home order, it can be even more difficult for a survivor to find privacy.

“We should stay in touch with survivors as best we can, even if that’s just a daily check in,” she says. “We need to be on top of how people are feeling, recognize how they are feeling in their voice, and start thinking about how they can support them, whether that means calling on their behalf of setting up a quarantined space in their homes if possible.”