"Housing instability increases vulnerability, leading to higher incidents of sexual violence." 

Michelle Roland-Schwartz 

& Jayne Downing

Michele Roland-Schwartz is the executive director of the Oregon Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force. Jayne Downing is the executive director of the Center for Hope & Safety, a shelter and support provider for victims of domestic and sexual violence in Marion County. Michele and Jayne see every day the importance of housing stability and protection from no-cause eviction and extreme rent increases for survivors and their children. 

As domestic and sexual violence advocates, we know the importance of a safe and stable place to call home. Yet in today’s statewide housing crisis, too many Oregonians live with housing instability, caused by low-vacancy rates, drastic rent increases and no-cause evictions.

This housing crisis has a disproportionate impact on women, and especially on victims of domestic and sexual violence. That is why the Oregon Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force and the Center for Hope & Safety support HB 2004, which says that tenants can’t be evicted without a reason, and allows local jurisdictions to consider policies that slow rent increases.

Women and youth in Oregon face significant rates of housing instability. A recent report by the Women’s Foundation of Oregon found that women who rent are the most cost-burdened in the state. In our very own Marion County, one out of four renters is paying more than 50 percent of their income on housing. The impact of a no-cause eviction or a sudden rent increase on a cost-burdened renter can be a recipe for lasting poverty.

forced or coerced sexual activity in exchange for survival, such as access to a shower, a couch to sleep on or food and other life-saving needs.

Women experiencing recent or ongoing domestic violence are more likely to face eviction than other women. Victims are afraid to call 911 for help, for fear of landlord retaliation and eviction into a market with very low vacancy rates and high costs. Victims of domestic violence who found the courage to leave an abusive home often face no choice but to return to their abusers if they are displaced by a rent increase or a no-cause eviction.

Oregon is second in the nation in rates of violence against women. Our state’s housing crisis is exacerbating this already devastating statistic. Passage of HB 2004 will mean Oregonians are not evicted from their home without a reason. Safe and stable housing for women helps increase access to safety and opportunity. For survivors, residential stability is key to improving their lives and the lives of their children. We applaud the lawmakers who are advancing this important legislation.

A similar piece by the same authors ran in the Statesman Journal on April 3rd, 2017. www.statesmanjournal.com/story/opinion/readers/2017/04/03/housing-stability-reduces-domestic-and-sexual-violence/99987996/