Crisis line is always listening

A young man is beaten by his domestic partner. A student is hounded by a stalker. A woman is raped by an acquaintance while on a date. Another student suddenly comes to grips with years of incest.

For those who find themselves in emotionally devastating and sometimes life threatening situations such as these, the Portland Women’s Crisis Line – a statewide domestic violence and sexual assault hotline operating 24 hours per day, seven days a week – is ready to help.

The crisis line works collaboratively with agencies in the tri-county area to provide shelters, legal counsel and a long list of population-specific resources to those in need. In the last fiscal year the crisis line handled more than 24,000 calls.

In a partnership with the crisis line, the Women’s Resource Center at Portland State provides a range of services for victims of domestic or sexually related violence through its interpersonal violence advocacy program, which focuses on crisis intake, response and in-person advocacy.

“The advocacy piece is sort of like case management,” said Aimee Shattuck, coordinator for the WRC. “We can’t do ongoing counseling, but we can evaluate what resources the person needs and make sure they’re connected to those resources.”

Among these resources are links to counseling, medical and legal services, housing and the crisis line. In the past year, the WRC received six complaints relating to domestic violence, 15 relating to sexual assault and five that involved stalking or harassment. Ten of these took place on the Portland State campus, while 16 occurred off campus.

Shattuck said that one of the resource center’s goals is to provide support for the many victims who are reluctant to report a crime.

“They’re afraid of the perpetrator, don’t trust the university or are afraid everyone will find out. We try to make them feel safe and let them know that the door is always open and help is available.”

The WRC is funded by student fees and operated by a small staff, two graduate assistants and a group of student volunteers. For those who decide to report, one of the resource center’s most important service is helping students to work through the student conduct code process.

“We’ll try and help them figure out where the crime fits into the conduct code and how to do a report,” said Shattuck. This can include helping victims to file police reports and restraining orders. “We’ll help them understand the language and go through the process with them.”

The crisis line and the Women’s Resource Center often do community fundraisers and other events together, Shattuck said.

“Domestic violence and sexual assault affects everyone,” said Andrea, a crisis line volunteer coordinator who declined to give her last name for reason of confidentiality. Most calls to the crisis line are made by women, she said, but the program continues to work toward tailoring their services to anyone who may need them.

The crisis line is a volunteer-driven agency and is always looking for participants, not just for the crisis line but also for crisis line-sponsored community events and teaching. “There aren’t any specific requirements for volunteering,” said Andrea. “We’re looking for like-minded individuals with a passion for social justice. If people want to help, we’ll find them a job. We’ll train them.”

“We’re empowering our community,” she said. “We’re letting them know that it’s not okay to be violent. Violence is never a solution.”