Lewis County groups aim to coordinate plan for cases of domestic, sexual violence


On average, survivors will have experienced seven incidents of domestic violence before reporting one, Centralia Police Sgt. Patty Finch said on Monday. 

It can be hard for some people to understand why, but factors might include survivors fearing for their safety, finances or children.

One survivor, during a Monday afternoon meeting in Chehalis, said “the hardest thing I could ever do, in my life, was leave.”

Between stigma, power dynamics between abusers and survivors, and the highly volatile environment for officers responding to domestic violence calls, it takes a special kind of person to train law enforcement on domestic and sexual violence responding. Finch is just one of two trainers in the county alongside Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chris Rubin.

In a Monday afternoon meeting in the basement of Umpqua Bank in Chehalis, Hope Alliance hosted Rubin, Finch, Centralia Police Chief Stacy Denham, representatives of the Lewis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and members of the public to discuss a coordinated plan between the agencies for domestic and sexual violence calls.

Hope Alliance, a nonprofit, is the county’s only accredited, 24/7, free and confidential crisis program for victims of domestic and sexual violence. Staff can connect English- and Spanish-speaking survivors with legal aid for protection orders and divorces; escort them to and from the courthouse during hearings; and set them up with a vast array of services, such as housing, medical advocacy, support during forensic interviews, support groups and prevention education.

The nonprofit and various agency representatives meet quarterly. Community planning meetings are a requirement ahead of an Oct. 17 deadline for application to “STOP” grant funding, short for the Stop Violence Against Women Act of 1994. As part of that, the attendees listed strengths and weaknesses for response to domestic and sexual violence and took questions on their current methods from the public. 

Kris Camenzind, executive director of Hope Alliance, began the meeting with a presentation on the nonprofit’s services and statistics from the last two years. In 2023 alone, the organization has served 513 “primary” domestic violence clients, not including the clients’ children or others who were impacted by the violence, also known as “secondary victims.”

Hope Alliance has also helped 83 sexual assault victims this year.

All the agency representatives at Monday’s meeting said the amount of violence they see in crimes of all sorts has been on the rise recently.

It’s an issue Denham said he is “very passionate about” because it is often the first in a chain of challenges for victims, especially children.

“There’s a high probability that those kids who are growing up are going to face other issues,” Denham said, listing higher probabilities of substance use disorders, suicide, homelessness and continuing familial cycles of abuse, later adding, that with outreach and therapy, kids can learn “what they’re seeing, what they’re experiencing, is not normal.”

When Centralia officers respond to domestic violence calls, Denham said, it’s often to addresses they’ve visited previously. On each call, officers provide contact information for the Hope Alliance, Finch said. In more violent situations where victims need to be transported to the hospital, she said, officers may call Hope Alliance themselves so the survivor has an advocate by their side shortly after.

Camenzind said it is very important to her and her staff to offer clients “a fresh face” every time they visit Hope Alliance, whether it’s the first or the eighth time. 

Centralia officers respond to domestic violence calls “almost daily,” Denham said, making it a big focus for their department. Training from Finch of the sheriff’s office is also made available to other agencies in the county, but not all choose to participate, for a “myriad” of reasons, Denham said.

Despite representatives only coming from Centralia and Lewis County’s sheriff and prosecutors offices, every law enforcement agency in Lewis County was invited to the meeting, Camenzind said.

“I know that this meeting is specifically about STOP Grant grantees, but, for a true coordinated community response, it seems like there’s a lot of people who aren’t at the table,” said Patrick Morrison, a Hope Alliance staff member. 

For some agencies, it’s about lack of time, capacity or staff, Denham said. For others, he said, it’s about ignorance and not being willing. 

Denham then alluded to “a certain chief” from Morton who he “wouldn’t put a lot of stock into” to correctly train his officers on domestic violence responding. Denham was alluding to the recent resignation of former Morton Police Chief Roger Morningstar, who is facing charges from the Washington Criminal Justice Training Center, among which are mishandling an investigation into an attempted burglary by a registered sex offender and sexual harassment of employees.


Alongside crisis services, Hope Alliance staff at the nonprofit help survivors to craft resumes, apply for benefits and seek stable employment. People do not have to identify themselves to call the crisis line.

To learn more about Hope Alliance, head to the nonprofit’s website at https://hopealliancelc.org. The crisis line for victims of physical or sexual abuse, domestic violence or sexual assault is open 24/7 at 360-748-6601. The website also has links to donate and for people seeking a “quick escape.” 

The Youth Advocacy Center of Lewis County offers these services for children and can be reached at 360-623-1990.