TERI DOYLE REMEMBERS the day she had to sit in court with her abuser.
"I don't know if there are words that can describe it. It was every possible emotion, and on top of that, fear," says Doyle, a mother in her mid-forties.
The father of Doyle's children sat less than 20 feet away from her in the courthouse while he fought to appeal the restraining order she had placed against him. The experience was grueling, but it's the only choice, says Doyle.
"If you don't show up, he wins," she says.
With the July opening of Portland's $2 million Gateway Center for Domestic Violence Services, hopefully women like Doyle will never have to feel unsafe in court again. This one-stop shop's most revolutionary service will be a mock courtroom where victims can attend restraining order hearings via video chat.
"You will be able to relax, to feel safe and comfortable," says Doyle, who is on the center's advisory committee.
At the Gateway Center, partners from the sheriff's office, district attorney's office, counselors, and others will have one place to offer the services that abused families typically have to crisscross Portland to find.
Domestic violence advocates have been lobbying for the center for 10 years, but it clearly cannot solve all Portland's issues with domestic violence. Violence against women and children is on the rise nationally: 22 women and children have died in domestic violence incidents in the tri-county area in the past six months and shelters are overflowing ["Running on Empty," News, Sept 3, 2009]. The county estimates that 28,000 women in Multnomah County are abused each year.
Fay Schuler, director of the West Women's and Children's Shelter, says her 50-bed shelter turned away 3,274 requests for beds last year. "I hope that new center doesn't give a false sense of hope to survivors that shelters are available."
Though it doesn't include any shelter beds, the opening of the center is a major success for City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who threw his weight behind the project in 2008 and secured a starter fund of $1.76 million plus $422,000 for annual operating costs from Portland's city budget.
The center will operate out of a building owned by the county, and additional staff will come from agencies around the city. Gateway Center Director Martha Strawn Morris said she couldn't quote an exact figure for the total cost of the center, but the project's feasibility study approximated startup costs of $2.13 million and an annual operating cost of $700,000.
While two-by-fours are still stacked in rooms that are supposed to house services for needy families in July, Morris is hopeful about the center's long-awaited opening. "This can be a huge turning point for the mom in her decision to do something about the relationship," she says.
Victim Teri Doyle is hopeful, too.
After she left her husband, Doyle had to truck across Portland with her kids, telling the same story of her abuse to multiple agencies to get help. "You won't have to worry about telling your story over and over again in front of your children," says Doyle.