The recent death of a University of Virginia Lacrosse player, allegedly at the hands of her abusive ex-boyfriend, has placed relationship violence once again in the media spotlight. While dating and domestic violence can happen to anyone, research shows young women are especially vulnerable. Here in Oregon, the need for domestic and dating violence awareness and education has never been so high.
In the past six months, Oregon has seen a startling increase in domestic violence murders—17 just in November and December of ’09. In the first few weeks of 2010, there were five more domestic violence related deaths just in the Portland area.
This is especially concerning given that the average domestic violence related deaths between 2004 and 2008 was seven, according to the Multnomah County Family Violence Coordinating Council.
I’ve written before in this column about recognizing the signs of domestic and dating violence. It’s important to know and remember those warning signs and speak to young people about them. Here is a good list of warning signs: https://www.msu.edu/~safe/facts/warning_dv.htm 
Here are some other steps all of us can take to help STOP relationship violence:
1. If you witness abuse, call 9-1-1 and be willing to give the police a statement regarding what you saw or heard.
2. If you know someone who is being abused, provide support and let her/him know that: “You deserve to be safe. The abuse is not your fault. There is help available.” Offer to help the victim find help and create a safety plan. This link provides some great information about creating a safety plan: http://www.domesticviolence.org/personalized-safety-plan/ 
3. Be informed about the work of shelters and services in your area. Help make information available by placing brochures and resource lists at your place of work, at colleges, places of worships, medical clinics and other locations in the community. Here is a directory of Oregon’s domestic violence services:
4. Talk to your children about safe relationships (the website www.giverespect.org, a project of the Family Violence Prevention Fund, is a great resource for this). Start young by talking about treating others with respect. Continue talking to pre-teens and teens about their rights to be treated well and with respect by dating partners.
5. Support domestic violence programs with donations of money, food, clothes, household goods or time.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline number is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
### Erika Weisensee, a writer and native Oregonian, lives in Milwaukie and teaches journalism and communication courses at the University of Portland.