The Kids’ FIRST Center created the Domestic Violence Witness Project in 1999 in response to changes in Oregon law. Recognizing the impact of domestic violence on the children who witness domestic violence, state lawmakers increased the severity of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence to a felony when witnessed through sight or sound by a minor child.
The Domestic Violence Witness Project began as a 60-day pilot project to interview child witnesses of domestic violence at the Kids’ FIRST Center. The purpose was both to gather evidence about the crime and help adult survivors access community resources such as counseling, domestic violence services and Crime Victims Compensation funds. The project was so successful it was made a permanent service of Kids’ FIRST in July 1999.
Trained personnel from the Department of Human Services Child Welfare Program interview domestic violence witnesses at the Center from Monday through Friday at 1:30 p.m., or by appointment. The interviews are used to gather evidence and document a child’s statement about what s/he saw. The interviews also allow the adult victim to meet with an advocate to develop a safety plan, discuss services and get questions answered.
Domestic Violence Witness Project interviews now represent approximately one-third of all interviews conducted at the Center each year.