SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon Department of Justice says it is looking for input from communities impacted by inequity in an effort to improve services and access to justice for crime victims and survivors. This third annual "Community Conversations" series consists of 21 online listening sessions focusing on the experiences of different communities in Oregon.
“Sadly, we know that many Oregonians, in the course of their day or night, do not feel safe and secure,” said Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. “In fact, the communities that experience the highest victimization rates are the same ones that face the greatest barriers to support. These Community Conversations, now in their third year, are making a vital difference in our efforts at the Oregon Department of Justice to dismantle and overcome those barriers.”
Survivors and advocates have said that there are a lack of providers that can offer culturally responsive services to diverse communities. In 2020, Oregon began offering "Victims of Crime Act" grants to community-based organizations. At present, those grants amount to more than $5 million between 12 different recipient organizations.
The 2020 Community Conversations series drew more than 1,000 participants, Rosenblum's office said. That input was summarized in a report, “Opening Pathways to Justice and Improving Support for Communities Impacted by Inequity,” and state officials pledged to follow up on a number of action items identified by survivors and advocates.
“For a survivor of assault or another crime to sense they are being judged or disregarded by a responder is incredibly traumatizing. If a survivor doesn’t fit the responder’s idea of how a victim should look or act, the responder may not believe the survivor is credible. And that’s a problem,” said ORDOJ Survivor Services fund coordinator Benjamin Bradshaw. “When people face this kind of explicit or implicit bias from the very people who are supposed to help them, they may choose not to report a crime. They may believe they have nowhere to turn for help.”
In response to that feeback, Survivor Services has started a training program for leadership of all victim services programs funded by the state DOJ. The wider department has also removed Social Security Number questions from forms used to process services claims, created a new diversity and equity subcommittee, and is still exploring other improvements to its programs for victims and survivors.
The Community Conversations series will also include updates on Oregon's recently-overhauled hate crime statutes.
“In 2020, DOJ’s Bias Response Hotline received 1,100 reports,” said Johanna Costa, who coordinates the state’s Bias Response Program. “These were largely reports of race-based bias, and, overwhelmingly, of anti-Black bias. People from all protected classes, including sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, religion, national origin, and race and color have contacted the hotline to report being targeted in their homes, at work, and out in their communities, including parks, stores, and even while driving.”
In 2021, the hotline has received 700 reports to date, indicating an increase in reporting of 450 percent over the previous year.
The Community Conversations are free and open to the public. Sessions run from 1 to 3 p.m. on the dates indicated below. To join any future session, click this Zoom link or call 1-669-254-5252. Registration is required, but attendees may choose to participate anonymously.
- Muslim Communities - Monday, June 14
- People Experiencing Houselessness - Wednesday, June 16
- Asian Communities - Monday, June 21. Mandarin and Vietnamese interpretation will be provided
- Black/African American Communities - Wednesday, June 23
- Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Communities - Friday, June 25
- American Indian and Alaska Native Communities - Monday, June 28
- North African and Middle Eastern Communities - Wednesday, June 30
- People of Color Communities - Monday, July 12
- Undocumented and Migrant Farmworker Communities - Wednesday, July 14. Spanish interpretation will be provided
- Immigrant and Refugee Communities - Friday, July 16
- Slavic and Eastern European Immigrants and Communities - Monday, July 19. Russian interpretation will be provided
- Deaf and Hard of Hearing Communities - Wednesday, July 21. ASL and Closed Captioning will be provided
- Blind and Low Vision Communities - Friday, July 23
- People with Disabilities Communities - Monday, July 26
- People with Mental Health Disabilities - Communities Wednesday, July 28
- Victims who are Incarcerated, Formerly Incarcerated, or Justice-Involved - Friday, July 30