Willamette Law alumna seeks to make an impact in domestic violence prosecution

by Sarah Carlson,

  • Erin Greenawald JD'98 (middle), domestic violence resource prosecutor for Oregon Department of Justice, conducts training on
    Erin Greenawald JD'98 (middle), domestic violence resource prosecutor for the Oregon Department of Justice, conducts a training on domestic and sexual violence at the Sexual Assault Training Institute. Pictured with her is Steve Bellshaw, deputy chief of the Salem Police Department, and Jodie Bureta JD'03, former Marion County District Attorney's Office prosecutor and now an employee of the Department of Justice.

Although born and raised in Newport, Oregon, Erin Greenawald JD’98 would tell you she “grew up,” professionally, in the Marion County District Attorney’s (MCDA) office. The most impactful time in her professional life came while working at MCDA, especially the summer following her first year at Willamette Law.Erin Greenawald JD'98 is the domestic violence resource prosecutor for the Oregon Department of Justice.

At MCDA, she was introduced to domestic violence work on the first day. Except for a short-lived, six-month stint at a Portland law firm, she’s been working in DV prosecution ever since. 

Greenawald is the domestic violence resource prosecutor for the Oregon Department of Justice. When she accepted the job, 19 other states had DVRP positions. However, she said hers is unique — she handles complex DV cases statewide, provides technical assistance to prosecutors, civil attorneys, law enforcement and others, develops trainings and resource materials, and engages in the legislative and policymaking processes.

“I didn’t set out to do DV work,” she said, “but once I was exposed to its challenges and what it could mean for victims, my interest was sealed. I’ve always been drawn to helping people and holding others accountable for their actions. Doing domestic violence prosecution allows me to do both of those things.”

Since she began as a law student at MCDA, she said the office’s ability to prosecute DV cases and engage with victims and survivors has greatly improved. She was part of the first team of prosecutors created to work on DV cases and counts herself lucky to have worked in an office that “placed a high priority on improving its prosecution of domestic violence cases.”

As part of her job, Greenawald serves as chair of the Oregon DV Fatality Review Team and co-chair of the Criminal Justice sub-committee of the Sexual Assault Task Force. She said she often provides technical assistance to younger prosecutors, frequently in urgent situations. When she’s at her desk, she is likely creating trainings, working on cases or completing work for her committees.

She said the most difficult part of her job is that there isn’t enough time to get everything done.

“There’s so much great work going on around Oregon in terms of domestic and sexual violence, but there’s so much left to do,” she said. “Sometimes I have to say no, or put something on the back burner, and that can be hard to do.”

The most rewarding part of her position, she said, is being able to connect with people around the state due to her division’s work in statewide cases. If not for the reach of the division, she said she wouldn’t have met and worked with many extraordinary people.

Greenawald presented a training on the “Myths and Misconceptions about Domestic and Sexual Violence” for Willamette Law students Tuesday. The Women’s Law Caucus student group sponsored the event. Group vice president Emily Lohman said she was grateful for Greenawald’s enthusiasm in agreeing to speak to students.

Greenawald said she thinks it’s important that every law student receive information on domestic violence while in school and that every lawyer should complete continuing legal education courses on the topic.

“Regardless of the type of law one practices, it’s almost certain that they will engage with a DV victim,” she said. “The legal profession would greatly benefit from increased awareness and education around the complex issues involved with domestic and sexual violence.”

With the recent #MeToo movement aimed at exposing sexual and physical abuse, Lohman said Greenawald’s message is “empowering, educational and extremely relevant.”

“Domestic violence and abuse is a widespread epidemic that impacts every person in every community and yet often remains hidden, minimized or hushed,” Lohman said. “Erin is doing the important work of denouncing stereotypes about victims and exposing the tactics abusers employ — she is educating people on something that is privately commonplace and publicly not discussed.”

Because of people like Greenawald, Lohman said she thinks change will happen and domestic violence can be combatted.

About Willamette University College of Law

Opened in 1883, Willamette University College of Law is the first law school in the Pacific Northwest. The college has a long tradition at the forefront of legal education and is committed to the advancement of knowledge through excellent teaching, scholarship and mentorship. Leading faculty, thriving externship and clinical law programs, ample practical skills courses and a proactive career placement office prepare Willamette law students for today's legal job market. According to statistics compiled by the American Bar Association, Willamette ranks first in the Pacific Northwest for job placement for full-time, long-term, JD-preferred/JD-required jobs for the class of 2014 and first in Oregon for the classes of 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. Located across the street from the state capitol complex and the Oregon Supreme Court, the college specializes in law and government, law and business, and dispute resolution.

Willamette University

University Communications

Waller Hall, Fourth Floor
900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.

Back to Top