Health & Education

Department of Justice informational tour visits Grand Ronde

02.28.2012 Dean Rhodes Health & Wellness, State government

The Oregon Department of Justice, recognizing domestic violence and sexual assault as areas where government partnerships with Native peoples have fallen short, is embarking on a ­Native listening tour to find out more about the Native experience in these crime areas, emphasizing that department-funded programs are available in Indian Country.

They also will make recommendations to department leadership as necessary to make the programs work.

"To make program improvements, to allocate funding more effectively and to improve two-way communication between program providers and victims," is how Diana Fleming summarized the Justice Department's effort on Wednesday, Feb. 15, in the Tribal Community Center.

Fleming is grants coordinator for the Justice Department's program that is implementing the 1994 Violence Against Women Act.

Karen Heywood, the department's Victim Response Section manager, said that the last assessment of how effective the programs are statewide occurred 10 years ago in a department-funded Portland State University study. A new assessment is now being conducted with outreach to Oregon's Tribal nations.

"People just don't know about our programs," Heywood said.

And the problem flows both ways. People don't know about the programs available and the Justice Department has traditionally been unable to obtain information about victims from Oregon's nine Tribes, in part because of how difficult it has been to locate and contact Tribal individuals.

"Since the current plan to stop violence against women includes only national statistics, we are trying to identify the funding and the services that (are now in the local) Tribal communities," said Fleming.

"Gathering Tribal data will be helpful to us, however, we are too early in our collaborative relationship with Oregon Tribal nations to address a statewide approach to gathering statistics," said Desiree Allen-Cruz (Umatilla), who has worked in domestic violence/sexual abuse programs for 15 years and, since 2002, has worked in them at the Umatilla Indian Reservation in eastern Oregon.

"It's all about understanding needs from all perspectives," said Fleming, "and we are focused on hearing directly from all nine Oregon Tribal nations on the domestic violence and sexual assault service provision in their county service areas."

Even without knowing what the full need is, Heywood said that the Justice Department "is not very close to meeting it." A 2006 study said that involved service agencies would need $16 million to meet the crises out there.

"We provide half of that (through grant programs)," Heywood said.

Justice Department programs include compensation for crime victims, post-conviction advocacy, sexual assault victims' emergency fund and one that enables victims to shield their addresses and other personal identification information, called the Address Confidentiality Program.

Justice also has resources for dealing with child abuse, domestic violence, driving under the influence, elder abuse, kidnapping and trafficking, rape and sexual assault, stalking, restitution, city and county victim assistance programs, and finding legal help.

Important for Tribal staffers, Justice's professional services include reports and publications that describe common outcome measures, training opportunities and a victim assistance tool kit.

The Grand Ronde visit also gave the Justice Department information they were looking for about the problem at the Grand Ronde Tribe.

"We got a little bit," said Heywood. "(The Tribe) does not know anything about our compensation program. That's concerning. So, that's a potential training that we would want to offer."

Responding to questions about Internet crimes against children, Heywood said, "We could connect with our partner DOJ Division that houses the Internet Crimes Against Children Unit to speak about social networking safety."

The group also learned that Grand Ronde has accepted department grants and has taken responsibility for indirect costs, such as administration, she said, adding that it is a plus for the Justice Department.

"That actually opens the Tribe up to more of our funding," Heywood said.

The Tribe also has a good relationship with Sable House, located in Dallas, the one nonprofit dealing with domestic violence and sexual assault in the Tribe's immediate service area. However, Heywood said that the Tribe still could establish similar partnerships with domestic violence and sexual assault agencies in a wider services area.

Dave Fullerton, manager of the Tribe's Social Services Department, encouraged Tribal members with any of these issues to contact the Social Services Department, Sable House or the Mid-Valley 211 number that specializes in connecting individuals with such services as counseling and support, health care, energy assistance, employment resources, and domestic violence and sexual abuse support services. 

Some 15 Grand Ronde Tribal department heads and staffers attended the meeting.