Light shines in Hillsboro for domestic violence victims
Cardboard silhouettes of children, adults and pets coated the lawn of the Washington County Courthouse Tuesday evening, Oct. 9, while law enforcement bore purple ribbons on their chests, and community members gathered together in support against victims of domestic violence.
Tuesday night, a group of peope gathered for a candlelight vigil honoring and remembering domestic violence victims. The event was organized by the Hillsboro Police Department for the first time last year, and Hillsboro officers were joined this year by other local agencies, including the Beaverton Police Department and the Washington County Sheriff's Office.
"We hadn't had any vigils at all in Washington County in over 10 years," said Elizabeth Sauter, who runs the domestic violence program for the Hillsboro Police Department and organized the first vigil last year. "If we can (help) people who maybe haven't found their voice yet, and this brings them to find their voice and show that there's support all around, to me, it's worth it. It's a good collaboration effort, and it brings agencies together that haven't, in the past, worked fully together on projects."
More than a dozen law enforcement officers from Hillsboro, Beaverton, North Plains and Washington County attended the vigil to bring awareness to something many of them encounter on a frequent basis. Also in attendance was Washington County District Attorney Kevin Barton, who emceed the event.
The cardboard silhouettes represented people, and animals, who had lost their lives to domestic violence in Oregon over the past year and a half, Sauter said. Some stood alone, while others were grouped together, their deaths occured under one roof, as in the case of one woman and her two small children. Each cutout had a note attached, with the age of the victim and the circumstances under which they died.
While most of the cutouts were made from black cardboard, several were made in white, representing murder-suicides, in which the perpetrator also died, Sauter said. These were intentionally left without details.
"What we in the DA's Office ... and also all the different community partners from the different agencies that provide support and services do is so important," Barton said. "Today is really an opportunity to recognize all the work that's done by so many people, but also the need that still exists. I think that the more awareness that we can create that this is an issue that impacts people across all socioeconomic spectrums, all races, all sexes, all religions — it's not something that impacts the rich or the poor, it impacts everyone … if we can increase that awareness here in our county, then it will help us provide a safe environment for people that are in need."
The event featured performances from a local singer, a contemporary dancer, commentary from police officers, and a personal story shared by a woman who survived domestic violence herself, Shannon Buckmaster of Newberg.
"I am especially honored to be here (as) part of this event today," Buckmaster said after sharing her story. "As a child, I learned to be afraid of the helpers. … I'm sad that I can't go back and thank those individuals (who helped me). … But what I can do, is stand in this audience today and thank the public service workers who are before me."
Buckmaster added, "If you look around at the silhouettes, it's clear, you don't always hear the happy endings … So if you don't get to hear those happy endings, please hear mine. The work you do matters tremendously."
The city of Hillsboro has made several big steps in the past few years to increase the resources available for domestic violence victims, and a major part of that push came from Hillsboro Police Chief Lee Dobrowolski.
Dobrowolski worked as a patrol cop for most of his career before becoming police chief. One story has never left Dobrowolski's memory, he said: when he responded to a domestic abuse call in the middle of the night involving a little girl that was his daughter's age.
"It's been one of my major focuses since I've been here," Dobrowolski said, who was a big advocate for the family justice center in Salt Lake City. "So when I got here … I talked to the then-executive director of the domestic violence resource center and said, 'Do you know what a family justice center is?' And she got this big grin on her face and she said, 'I do! You do?' And I said, 'Yeah. Why don't we have one in Washington County?'"
The Family Justice Center of Washington County opened in March, 735 S.W. 158th Ave. in Beaverton.
"I think the biggest thing is that oftentimes, domestic violence goes unseen because it's the secret inside the house," Dobrowolski said. "If we can bring it into the light, because sun is the best disinfectant, right? Same concept in domestic violence, where if we can bring awareness to it, people know what to look for. And (we hope) that they can feel like 'if I call, there is a support system for me.' We are here for you. It might not be easy, but we as a system are here to support you, to get you out of that cycle of violence."
The evening concluded with a candlelight service and a moment of silence, shining a light for those who are unseen.
By Olivia Singer
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
Follow Olivia at @oliviasingerr
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