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Janie Schutz was honored at the Oregon Crime Victims Law Center's first annual Hardy Myers Dinner.

STAFF PHOTO: MARK MILLER - Forest Grove Police Chief Janie Schutz speaks about her personal experiences with sexual assault and overcoming trauma at the Hardy Myers Dinner in Portland on Thursday.About a year and a half ago, four years after becoming Forest Grove's chief of police, Janie Schutz shocked attendees during a talk at the Hillsboro Public Library when she said publicly for the first time that she had been the victim of sexual assault as a child.

On Thursday, April 12, Schutz accepted the Hardy Myers Crime Victims Advocacy Award — the first such award given out — at a dinner put on by the Oregon Crime Victims Law Center in Portland.

Gaynette Jensen, treasurer of the Oregon Crime Victims Law Center, explained that the award "was created to honor those who advance the interests of crime victims through advocacy, ingenuity and/or courage."

"She is an advocate of training officers to have empathy and making sure that they have interviewing techniques that are trauma-informed, so that they understand what victims go through," Jensen said of Schutz. "Community involvement is high on her list. She goes out on patrol on a regular basis to make connections with people."

The story Schutz told again at the dinner is a harrowing one. When she was 14, Schutz said, she was sent to stay with family in another state over the summer. During that time, she said, a close male relative raped her on two occasions.

"On what was going to be a third time, I remember him taking me for a ride on his motorcycle outside of town to a remote field, where all I remember was a big tree and a single-wide trailer. He opened the door, and when I looked in, there was only a mattress on the floor," Schutz said. "I was terrified, but I finally said 'no.' His words were simple and memorable to this day. He said, 'Don't tell your mom. She will never understand.'"

Indeed, her mother did not understand or believe her when, years later, Schutz told her what had happened. Years after that, she recalled, her mother asked her to invite the man she said had raped her to a family reunion at her home.

STAFF PHOTO: MARK MILLER - Forest Grove Police Chief Janie Schutz speaks at the Hardy Myers Dinner Thursday evening."I was devastated when I went to my pastor for guidance and he told me I just needed to forgive and forget, because it had happened so long ago," Schutz said. "I fought back then, and I said 'no' — 'no' to the dinner and 'no' to the forgiveness."

Schutz' unnamed relative was never convicted or even charged with a crime related to what Schutz said happened when she was 14. Still, Schutz concluded Thursday by noting the importance of what advocates for crime victims do.

"Behind every crime, there is a victim, a family and their loved ones. And with each victim, there is a story of trauma, suffering and insecurity," Schutz said. "We will never be able to reverse the suffering of those victims or restore all that they have lost. However, we must nonetheless continue to do our utmost to minimize the frustration and the confusion … that they continue to live through long after that crime occurred."

She added, "When we help victims plan for their own safety, when we give them the information they need to make some choices, when we make sure that they have the opportunity to participate in the criminal justice process — when we do all these things, we give them a voice. We give them some peace. And in reality, we show our humanity to one another."

At the end of her remarks, Schutz received a long standing ovation.

Attendees at the event, held at the Buckman Public House in Northeast Portland, included former Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski; Washington County District Attorney Bob Hermann and his senior deputy, Kevin Barton; Forest Grove City Manager Jesse VanderZanden; former Tualatin Sen. Richard Devlin; two state representatives; and the family of Hardy Myers, who served in the Oregon Legislature and later as the state's attorney general for three terms before becoming president of the Oregon Crime Victims Law Center's board of directors in 2009.

Myers died in 2016. The dinner was held in his honor and will serve as an annual fundraiser for the Oregon Crime Victims Law Center's efforts. The nonprofit group provides free legal services for victims of alleged crimes across the state.

"While proud of the work we have done, we recognize that there are still many challenges for victims to face in the criminal justice system," said Rosemary Brewer, executive director of the Oregon Crime Victims Law Center, adding, "Our goal is to continue our work to ensure that every victim in every crime in every county is able to meaningfully participate in the system to the extent that they wish."

Retired Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul De Muniz was Thursday night's keynote speaker.

This week is National Crime Victims' Rights Week, Brewer noted. This year's theme dovetails neatly with the Oregon Crime Victims Law Center's mission — it is "Expand the Circle: Reach All Victims."

By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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