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Escaping domestic violence can be dangerous


Bend woman Sara Gomez was murdered after escaping from an abusive relationship with Bryan Penner, authorities say. Her body was found last Friday after being missing for more than three months.

The cycle of domestic violence is widespread. On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States.

In 2016, Oregon reported more than 139,000 calls for help made by people looking for answers regarding abusive partnerships.

Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson counties fielded nearly 3,000 of those calls. Most were for domestic violence, but some were for stalking and sexual assault.

After the tragic outcome of the Sara Gomez case, it’s important to understand why it can be so difficult for victims to leave.

According to Saving Grace Interim Executive Director Trish Meyer, often after the victim leaves, the abusive partner will make contact, apologize and convince the victim that it’s in their best interest to stay in touch.

“Many times, there are threats for that victim. If they leave the relationship, the abuser may harm them further,” Meyer said. “The abuser may be threatening to harm the children they have in common, may be threatening to take custody of the children. A lot of times, victims have been isolated from their friends and family, so they really don’t have anyone to reach out to for help.”

But Meyer said staying in an abusive relationship can be far more dangerous than leaving one.

Warning signs of an abusive relationship include extreme jealousy, discouraging the partner from seeing friends or family, insulting the partner, controlling all finances, use of weapons to intimidate and pressuring the partner into sex, drugs or alcohol.

“The abuser may be giving them messages that they are either unfit to be a mother or that ‘nobody else will have you’ — messages that will degrade the victim and make them feel like they’re unworthy to even leave that relationship,” Meyer said.

In 2017, the National Domestic Violence Hotline was contacted more than 400,000 times. Of the abuse reported, 86 percent was emotional or verbal abuse, 60 percent was physical abuse and 22 percent was economic or financial abuse.

So what if someone you know is in an abusive relationship?

“It’s not advisable necessarily to tell a victim that they should leave if there has not been a safety plan or some prior planning that’s been put in place,” Meyer said. “So certainly one can say, ‘I’m really worried about your safety. How can we get you help to leave the relationship safely’?

Saving Grace offers victims of abusive relationships a safe place to stay, as well as help getting out of the relationship and into a new living space.

If you or someone you know is a victim of an abusive relationship, you can visit the Saving Grace website at:

Or call their hotline: 541-389-7021 or toll-free 866-504-8992.

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