Camenzind started at the CSN as a volunteer in 1999. After becoming an advocate in 2001, she took over as director in 2006. Despite the agency’s constant dedication and work, there has been no decrease in domestic violence in Pacific County over the 15 years Camenzind spent at the CSN. The agency has dealt with over 200 cases since the beginning of the year. “Just when you think you’ve heard it all, it’s progressively getting worse. . . Part of it’s generational, part of it’s lack of opportunity, isolation, sometimes it’s religious beliefs.”
She explained that she is thankful that the state mandates each county to have a center for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. “The needs are so great in our community; we can hardly keep up with the demands of our county. So I can’t even imagine what would happen to these individuals if we weren’t here. I think the violence would definitely continue and escalate. I just can’t even fathom not having a place for these women to go.”
“Oppression and violence have not ended,” Camenzind firmly stated.
When Camenzind took over as director, the CSN budget was a little over $300,000 per year, and not long ago they topped $1 million by garnering grants and other sources of funding.
The CSN not only works with domestic violence victims, but handles issues that affect the homeless and low-income as well. “We now are not so much just domestic violence and sexual assault, but we also work in homelessness, with the consolidated housing grant, we operate the PUD warm heart program throughout the county, and we have general crimes advocacy.” The CSN also got a $600,000 grant for services at the Pacific Pearl, a permanent housing facility with 15 units for victims of abuse in a five year grant.
Being in a rural area creates unique problems in responding to cases of violence. Lack of adequate transportation, cell phone service, employment opportunities, and housing all pose barriers for the CSN. It’s also easier for abusers to isolate their victims.
“One of the things that really compounds all of those barriers is that our community’s standard seems to still think, I would say the majority of the time, that oppression and violence is okay. I don’t think that we as a community hold abusers and perpetrators accountable,” Camenzind said.
“I used to think that people didn’t want to acknowledge the violence, but the longer I’ve been in this work, I realize there’s a lot of victim blaming – ‘well she shouldn’t have [done this]’, ‘she should have left’, ‘if that were me, I would have left him a long time ago’. There’s a lot of victim blaming going on,” Camenzind explained. “An example would be: we had a lady who was raped by her husband, brutally raped, and law enforcement told her that it was his right to do that to her. Another time, we had a victim who had been beaten and raped by her husband and she was told that ‘it sounded like she needed to find another place to go live’. So the focus has been on the victim, instead of the perpetrator.”
“There are times where law enforcement who had the proper training responded well, but it’s inconsistent with new officers coming on,” Camenzind continued.
Although models in many areas of the US have shown that non-violence counseling for abusers will keep roughly seven out of ten abusers from being arrested again, there is currently no perpetrator treatment available in Pacific County. Over her time as director, Camenzind had two non-violence counselors in the county, but they were unable to stay in business as they didn’t have the referrals from the court.
As the incoming CSN director, Burr is excited to tackle issues in Pacific County. Having grown up deep in the Alaskan woods, she learned early in life the significance of dedicating oneself to a something. When she was a baby, her parents decided to homestead in Alaska, moving the large family up the ALCAN by car, down the Cosna River by boat, and eventually staking a claim of land in the Alaskan forests.
Just as her parents were wholly dedicated to living a sustaining lifestyle in Alaska despite the hardships, Burr has devoted most of her adult life to a cause in which she passionately believes – ending oppression and violence.
Burr worked at the Clatsop County Women’s Resource Center for over a decade, starting out a bookkeeper and eventually overseeing the 24-hour Domestic Sexual Assault Response Team. The team responded to domestic violence incidents with law enforcement immediately after the incidents occurred.
“It is probably the most amazing work that I will ever do in my lifetime, to see a woman in the active responses of trauma, and to try to advocate for her,” Burr said. Although the work is dangerous, the team worked very closely with law enforcement, a partnership on which success of the program hinged.
Burr recently moved to Ocean Park and has been working at Free by the Sea Drug Addiction and Alcohol Rehabilitation Center for the past year.
Moving forward, she plans on getting to know the agency and its work within the county. “I’ve got a huge learning curve between the differences between Oregon State law and Washington State law,” she said. “I’m very excited to forge relationships with law enforcement. I’m all about collaboration. I’m very proud of what I did with law enforcement in Clatsop County; I’ve got some great allies.”
Burr and Camenzind stress that the community can help end violence by asking questions, intervening when abuse is seen or suspected, and being an ally for victims as opposed to blaming them. “Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim,” Camenzind urged.
Burr continued, “There’s a lot of steps that go along the way and uninterrupted, it is indisputable that in the cycle of [domestic] violence, the end result will be death. So I think that that’s why it’s so important for there to be interruption by law enforcement, by agencies like ours, by education in the schools and preventions in other areas.”
Note: Read next week’s issue to see how local law enforcement is responding to cases of domestic violence and sexual assault.