SALEM, Ore. - Valentine's Day doesn't mean hearts, flowers and candy when you're in an abusive relationship.
This is also Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month and, in Oregon, the groups that provide shelter and services to people fleeing abuse say they can't focus on prevention for young people when they're barely able to serve the domestic-violence victims in crisis.
According to the Oregon Coalition on Domestic and Sexual Violence, the shelter system receives less than half of what is considered the minimum necessary funding for emergency services. Its director, Vanessa Timmons, said the immediate goal is more state money from lawmakers.
"What I'm hearing from them right now," she said. "is, 'We get it, but right now it's an uphill climb.' But what I say is, domestic and sexual violence services have been underfunded historically in our state for so long, we can't afford to not make this shift."
Timmons' group also is advocating for several bills in the Legislature. They include authorizing a statewide study of teen dating violence and setting up a fund for prevention activities.
Kerry Naughton, who heads the crime survivors' program for the Partnership for Safety and Justice, said Oregon's criminal justice system is focused on locking people up instead of getting at the root causes of the problems that often lead to abuse. She thinks there are better things to spend tax dollars on than more prison beds.
"That frees up a lot of money that can be reinvested into other parts of the public safety system, that have seen their funding go either unfunded or cut for so long -- like victim services, like state troopers, like community corrections," she said.
Last year, more than 40 women killed in Oregon were domestic-violence victims, and the shelter system receives 175,000 annual requests for emergency lodging and services.
A national study from Johns Hopkins University found that being able to access those services reduces the risk of re-assault by up to 70 percent.
Chris Thomas of Oregon News Service provided this story.