During 2010, there were twelve domestic violence-related deaths in the county, including six homicides and three suicides. The previous year, the county recorded six deaths, including two homicides.
The county doesn't have a definitive explanation for what led to the unprecedented increase. "The factors that lead to these deaths are complex and varied, but we know that when women are leaving a relationship, they are more likely to be assaulted, injured or killed. Unemployment, poverty and stress are factors, but not a definitive explanation of why some men kill their partners or their children,” said Chiquita Rollins, Multnomah County Domestic Violence Coordinator, in a statement.
The rise in domestic violence was discussed at a tearful vigil this past November, where victims' advocates lit a candle for each of the 49 people killed by domestic violence during the year.
At that vigil, Portland Women's Crisis Line director Executive Director Rebecca Nickels asked the crowd, "What are we as a community doing wrong? We're not supporting survivors in the most basic ways." She and other people who work with domestic violence victims pointed to a lack of affordable housing and overflowing shelters as a cause of the continuing deaths. The Portland Women's Crisis Line calls eight local shelters five times a day but still has to tell 60 percent of women in crisis that there are no openings.