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Tired of getting trampled at the malls while searching for that perfect holiday present? Now you can give (or get) a truly one-of-a-kind gift with the Mercury's Online Charity Auction! PLUS! All the proceeds go to a needy organization—right here in Portland!


• Check out the following pages and pick the gifts you like best.

• Now head over to portlandmercury.com and click on the "Mercury Online Charity Auction" banner.

• Find your preferred gift, and click the link below it. This will take you to the item's home on eBay.

• Bid on your present, and check in regularly to make sure you still have the highest bid. Please be generous!

• Bidding starts NOW and ends on Friday, December 12, at 5 pm.

The winners will be notified immediately, and you can pick up your prize in plenty of time for Christmas! And ALL of the proceeds from this year's auction will go directly to the Portland Women's Crisis Line, a local nonprofit that provides assistance to survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse.

SO WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? Bid now, and bid big for the gift of a lifetime! And as always...


When Denise, a Portland State University student, was assaulted last year, she immediately turned to the campus Women's Resource Center, looking for someone to talk to. "I was in a very deep haze," she recalls. "I wasn't able to put a name to what had happened, I just knew I didn't feel right about it.

Once she reached the center's doors, however, she couldn't bring herself to discuss what had just happened. "I chickened out. I don't know why, but I asked about volunteer opportunities instead. That was the first thing that came to mind."

It was a fortuitous request. She ended up connecting with the Portland Women's Crisis Line (PWCL), where staffers were planning last April's Bike Back the Night event in conjunction with Sexual Assault Awareness Month. They needed a student leader, and Denise volunteered. Partway through planning the event, however, Denise had to take a step back. "I hadn't talked about what happened to me," she explains. Planning the event "was bringing up a lot of emotions."

Then, "somebody told me about PWCL's group therapy," Denise says. "And it was really, really amazing in terms of facing what had happened, and helping me to name it. They never told me I had to name it. They said I could access the service whether I called it 'rape' or thought that my boundaries were ignored or invaded. Whatever it looked like, it was okay to be there. They always believed me."

Months later, Denise also utilized PWCL's individual therapy. And she just finished training to volunteer on the organization's backbone service, the 24-hour crisis hotline. She hasn't taken a call yet, but she knows her experience—plus the services she's accessed at PWCL—"will help me empathize" with survivors on the other end of the call.

Founded in 1972, PWCL has several core services—like the crisis line, which averages at least 2,500 calls a month. Staff and volunteers answering those calls connect domestic violence and sexual assault survivors with local resources—they track down emergency shelter, meet people at the hospital or police station to lend support, coordinate transportation to a safe place, walk people through the legal system to help someone decide whether or not to report an assault, and simply lend an ear if someone needs to talk. Someone "can call in the middle of the night if they're unable to sleep," says Executive Director Rebecca Peatow Nickels.

The crisis line is the entry point for most people who utilize PWCL's services. From there, survivors can access case management, therapy, and additional support. About one in eight sexual assaults are reported to law enforcement, says PWCL's Ally King, who heads up the Sexual Assault Program, and those people are able to access publicly funded victims' support programs, like advocates in the district attorney's office. Others, however, can find help via PWCL. "We're there to provide support and resources and information," King says.

PWCL also offers community education—from outreach to sex workers, to giving presentations in an effort to end domestic and sexual violence. "PWCL is a social change organization," Denise emphasizes. "They're working to really change the culture in which sexual assault exists. That's what sets them apart."

Unfortunately the organization needs money to keep offering such necessary services. The center runs out of motel voucher money by the middle of each month. Since July of 2007, PWCL has seen "an increase in the lack of shelter space," says Nickels. And funding for PWCL's education programs, like violence prevention, is scarce. Meanwhile, Nickels points out, 46 percent of PWCL's funding is from government sources (down from 87 percent support the year before). With local and state governments facing major budget crunches, she isn't sure what next year's financial picture looks like.

"Our government grants really do fund our core services," says Nickels. But if that funding is reduced, "then how do we then continue the core services and maintain this level of infrastructure we've been working really hard to attain?"

The answer to that lies with individuals like you, who are willing to be generous even in hard economic times. In fact, it's especially important to fund front-line services like PWCL's during tough times: When more and more people are experiencing anxiety due to economic stressors, "violence may often follow," Nickels acknowledges.

Meanwhile, "if you want to act locally on domestic and sexual violence, you can act locally right here," says Linda Miles, PWCL's development director.

Please give generously, and to find out more about the Portland Women's Crisis Line, go to pwcl.org or call 235-5333.