The Illinois Valley Safe House Alliance provides services to all of Josephine County. Josephine County is an entirely rural county with a population of 88,090 and spans 1,640 sq. miles.

Advocates provide services at the organization’s advocacy center in Cave Junction, the Josephine County Community Corrections (Probation) in Grants Pass, and the Cave Junction Branch of the Department of Human Services Self-sufficiency and Child Welfare (DHS). Additionally, advocates  attend groups and respond to victim/survivors at these community organizational sites in Cave Junction: On Track, the Pregnancy Center, Head Start, Early Head Start, Illinois Valley Counseling Support Passages Program, and the Illinois Valley High School.  Alliance staff provide training and community awareness activities throughout the county.

The advocacy center in Cave Junction primarily serves victims/survivors in the Illinois Valley.  The Illinois Valley covers approximately 760 square miles within Josephine County and consists of the city of Cave Junction and the surrounding small towns of Selma, Kerby, Takilma and O’Brien, altogether with a total population of 18,000.

The Illinois Valley (the Valley) has one highway in and out of town and a second highway that travels west to east that connects the most rural areas of Cave Junction and Takilma with ‘town’ (Cave Junction);  both highways are poorly lit.  Public transportation runs from the city of Cave Junction to Grants Pass (the nearest community of significant size – 30 miles north) from 6am to 6pm, but does not provide transportation to destinations within the Valley. The Valley was designated a Federal Enterprise Zone in the late 1990s based on its high rates of poverty and unemployment and the lack of economic diversity.  While the designation has expired the characteristics that led to the designation remain unchanged.  Over 67% of children enrolled in the county’s schools qualify for free or reduced lunches.  Unemployment and poverty rates in Josephine County are some of the highest in the state.

An aspect of the community that impacts the victims/survivors that we serve is its pioneer spirit.  The norm for many families is that they must ‘handle’ their private business — it’s private.  This means sexual assaults and partner violence are regarded as a “family matter”.  Abusers feel entitled.  Victims/survivors feel they should be able to handle the abuse on their own. Although this pioneer spirit prevents victims from seeking help for the abuse, they do access other types of social services in the valley, indicating the importance of advocates in community partner organizations.

For the past five years Josephine County has seen a decline in deputy response to the rural parts of the county.  With a recent tax levy failure, the Sheriff published a memorandum that stated “patrol would be limited to Monday-Friday 8am to 4pm,” and “phone calls from the public would be answered each work day from 9am to 11am and 3pm to 4pm.” Two separate sexual assault victims report being told that unless it was a matter of life and death that no deputy was available to respond.  The district attorney’s office is no longer prosecuting misdemeanor cases – this may or may not lead to fewer arrests by deputies who believe “what’s the use”.  Inadequate jail beds (reduced due to lack of staff) means that if an abuser is arrested it is likely that he will be back out on the street in two to eight hours.  This means that advocates are often the only lifeline for victims/survivors in Josephine County, especially in the Illinois Valley where the only law enforcement is sheriff deputies.

Although there are several challenges in running an Advocacy Service Center, The Illinois Valley Safe House Alliance is blessed to be part of this community and we are fortunate to be here.  We are located in an area that if you want to go hiking, you don’t have far to go. The opportunities for getting back to nature are spectacular. The Southern Oregon Coast is an hour away. The Oregon Caves, less than an hour. There are lakes for fishing and boating and mountains for skiing and hiking, rivers for Jet boats.

[1] Above figures are from the United States Census Bureau, see