On Wednesday, Mt. Hood’s Public Safety officers hosted an event called “Be Part of the Solution,” taking direct aim at domestic violence.

Guest speaker Saron Nehf, a domestic violence victims’ advocate from the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office Domestic Violence Unit covered different types of domestic abuse, how they happen, what can be done about them, and the different steps victims and perpetrators

go through legally.

Nehf started off by telling her backstory. She said she is a two-time survivor of domestic abuse: “I grew up in a home that was very abusive and growing up, I used to tell myself when I grow up and I find a partner in life, I’m going to find someone who’s the complete opposite of my very abusive parents.”

Instead, “I went out into the world and I found someone who was worse,” she said.

As an adult, Nehf said she found herself dealing with worse abuse than she witnessed growing up. “That’s something that is somewhat normal in the dynamics of domestic violence, because we (young victims) tend to go to what we’re comfortable with.”

A definition Nehf offered for domestic violence is “a pattern of abusive behaviors which are used to maintain power and control over someone else.” Examples of abuse include financial leverage, separation from support systems, gaslighting, and religious abuse.

Nehf explained that “gaslighting” includes actions an abuser takes to make a victim feel like they’re going crazy. Moving another’s belongings such as keys, and making the victim believe they keep misplacing everything is an example she provided. “You start really believing you’re going crazy,” she said.

With religious abuse, Nehf focused on biblical interpretation. Perpetrators will often use scripture to claim a strict patriarchy. In such relationships, women are forced to be submissive to men.

“In a lot of cultures – the Bible says that because you’re a woman you need to submit to me (the man), you need to be submissive, you need to obey me,” she said.

As for someone seeking legal action, Nehf said a police report is required before the District Attorney’s Office decides to pursue action. The state steps in and presses charges so that the victim doesn’t have to. “When somebody goes, ‘I want to press charges because they’re (the abuser) going to retaliate against me,’ ” the state steps in to take on the responsibility, she said. “It’s the state’s responsibility to keep our system safe.”

During the legal process, it’s the victim’s right to either know what is happening throughout the proceedings, or the victim may choose to avoid most parts of the procedures. The victim has to hear about that happens during grand jury proceedings and trials, said Nehf.

Nehf noted that victims are sometimes uncomfortable talking about their situation, so to help, friends and family are encouraged to offer moral support, but not to pry – to “be there” when a victim does decide to open up.

She also described the aspects of healthy relationships: “You want someone who’s going to be open and honest with you, talk about the really difficult things with you,” she said.

The “best base that you can have for a relationship is you loving yourself and knowing your worth before even going anywhere else.” Mutual respect and respect for boundaries are vital, she added.

After Nehf’s presentation, MHCC Lead Public Safety Officer Cherolyn Nederhiser said that for anyone at Mt. Hood who needs help or resources regarding domestic violence, the Public Safety Office is the place to go.

The office is located in Room AC2330, and available at 503-491-7310 for non-emergencies.

For emergencies, victims are advised to call 911 first, and then 503-491-7911, for incidents on campus.

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