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Childhood secret leads woman's push for Portland metro area's newest domestic violence center
By SP_COP on December 19, 2014 | From
Childhood secret leads woman's push for Portland metro area's newest domestic violence center Beaverton businesswoman Tanya Richards remembers little about her mom, but the flashes of violence remain clear in her mind's eye.

She can see a man hitting her mother and black bruises outlining blue eyes. She hears the screaming.

She remembers how she'd try to hide from her mom's boyfriend. She recalls one time when her 13-year-old brother called police during an attack.

Soon after, during the week of June 18, 1962, her mom left with her boyfriend to camp on Patton Island in northern Alabama. Her mom never came back.

Richards, who was 4, wasn't allowed at her mother's funeral. Her grandparents told her that her mother died after falling from a cliff.

She believed them until sixth grade, when a friend told her things she'd never heard, details she thought couldn't be real. To find the truth, Richards rummaged through the drawers of her grandfather's dresser and found newspaper clippings from a murder trial.

Her mother, Evywon Reese Curtis, hadn't fallen. The 42-year-old mother of three had been beaten and kicked to death by her boyfriend.

Billy Ray Cozart, 28 years old at the time of the killing, was found guilty of manslaughter.

In the 52 years since her mother's death, Richards has looked to honor the woman she never had the chance to know. She has finally found the way.

Two years ago, while participating in a leadership program in Beaverton, Richards learned of Washington County's Domestic Violence Resource Center. She had made the cross-country trip to Oregon decades ago, after marrying the man who is now her husband of 35 years. The couple has two sons and a home in Aloha's Cooper Mountain neighborhood.

Thinking of her mom, Richards joined the center's board of directors and now serves as its chairwoman. She's working hard to push its most recent large-scale project: Bringing a family justice center to Washington County.

Such centers, popping up from the Portland metro area to New York City, offer services and resources for victims of domestic violence in one location. They are a place to get help: counseling, a restraining order, food.

In the 1960s, in the Florence area of Alabama, there were no domestic violence resources to be found for her mom.

"As someone who has lived their life with early trauma, your life is forever changed," Richards said. "I don't want any other human being, young child, to experience that."

Family justice centers, proponents say, are built on a philosophy that domestic violence victims face so many hurdles trying to leave their abusers that they end up staying, and the cycle of violence continues.

"There's a huge fear factor for them to say they've had enough," said Hillsboro Police Chief Lee Dobrowolski.

Multnomah and Clackamas counties already have The Gateway Center for Domestic Violence Services and A Safe Place, respectively. Years in the making, Clackamas County's center opened last fall and Portland's opened in 2010. Across the country, more than 80 centers have opened since the first was created in San Diego more than a decade ago.

In the Washington County space, supporters envision victims having access to a kitchen, food stamps, clothing, licensed child care and medical services, including rape kits and strangulation exams.

The plan is for state and county agencies to be housed in the building, along with police, prosecutors and legal services available. The hope is that victims also could make court appearances at the center by video, allowing them to avoid facing their abusers in person at the courthouse.

Victims seeking services from the center would not be required to report abuse to police. But supporters hope the center would help them do so and increase the number of abusers held accountable....
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