Information on Oregon Laws
Related to sexual assault, domestic violence, and the use of force in self-defense.
The legal issues involved in sexual and domestic violence are vast, and it would be impossible to cover all of them satisfactorily in a single page handout. Therefore this handout will attempt only to outline some of the pertinent laws, and to provide resources for more information. If you have questions regarding your specific situation, contact the district attorney’s office or a private attorney.
Information on laws related to sexual assault:
Oregon law on sexual offenses
In the state of Oregon, assaults that are commonly referred to as date rape, marital rape, acquaintance rape, and stranger rape are all prohibited and prosecuted under the same set of laws. The laws usually address unwanted sexual contact, except when the victim  is legally considered to be too young to give meaningful consent to sexual acts.
Rape or Sodomy in the 3rd degree: the victim is under 16 years of age and the attacker is 3 or more years older than the victim. The crime occurs whether or not the activity is consensual. Class C felony.
Rape, Sodomy, or Unlawful sexual penetration in the 1st degree: the victim is subjected to forcible compulsion; or the victim is under 12 years of age; or the victim is under 16 years of age and is related to the person as a sibling of whole or half blood or is the person’s child, or is the person’s stepchild; or the victim is incapable of consent because of mental defect, mental incapacitation, or physical helplessness. Class A felony.
Statute of limitations: Generally, sexual assault victims may initiate prosecution several years after the crime occurs. However, prosecution is most successful when victims immediately report sexual assaults because valuable evidence can be preserved.
- Rape: penetration of the vagina by the penis. Neither complete penetration nor ejaculation is required for it to be defined as rape.
- Sodomy: sexual contact between the sex organs of one person and the mouth or anus of the other person.
- Unlawful sexual penetration: the vagina, anus, or penis of a person is penetrated with any object other than the penis or mouth of the other person, typically a finger.
- Sexual abuse: Sexual contact that does not fall under the above definitions, e.g. fondling breasts, buttocks, or vaginal area. In the absence of forcible compulsion, rape, sodomy, or unlawful sexual penetration may be charged as sexual abuse.
- Forcible compulsion: physical force that overcomes earnest resistance; or a threat, express or implied, of immediate or future death or physical injury or kidnapping to the victim or another person.
Some resources regarding sexual assault:
Portland Police Detectives - Sexual Assault Detail
503-823-4000 (for info about investigations)
Portland Women’s Crisis Line
503-235-5333 (for referral to services, third-party reports, crisis counseling)
Rape Victim Advocates (for assistance with rape evidentiary exams and court proceedings):
Multnomah Co. 503-988-3222
Clackamas Co. 503-655-8616
Washington Co. 503-640-5311
Clark Co. WA 360-696-0167
Oregon State Police 503-731-3027
(for info about sex offender registration and notification)
SCF (Services to Children and Families) 503-731-3100
(for information and reporting of child sexual assault and other forms of child abuse)
Information on laws related to domestic violence:
Domestic violence can include many different types of abuse, such as:
- physical (which is covered in Oregon law as outlined below)
- sexual (which is covered in Oregon law as outlined on the previous page)
- emotional (which, hurtful as it is, is generally not prohibited by Oregon law)
Oregon law on assault
Assault in the 4th degree: the person intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes physical injury to another; or causes physical injury through the negligent use of a deadly weapon. Class A misdemeanor unless the person has been previously convicted of assaulting the same victim or a child witnesses the assault, in which case it becomes a Class C felony.
Assault in the 4th degree is a very common charge in cases of domestic violence. Usually, assaults in the 1st-3rd degrees, which are felonies, involve more serious physical injuries (those that involve substantial risk of death, disfigurement, and loss of function), or physical injuries through the reckless or intentional use of a deadly or dangerous weapon.
Some resources on domestic violence:
Portland Police Bureau’s Domestic Violence Reduction Unit 503-823-0090
(To talk to someone about legal and law enforcement options for survivors of domestic violence and stalking)
Restraining order information:
Multnomah County 503-248-3943
Clackamas County 503-655-8616
Washington County 503-681-3830
Clark County (Washington State) 1-360-696-0167
Portland Women’s Crisis Line 235-5333
(to obtain referrals to local shelters and legal assistance)
In some circumstances, domestic violence is also a federal crime under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). For more information, call the local U.S. Attorney’s Office, 503-727-1013
Information on laws related to use of force in self-defense
How far may I go if I choose to physically defend myself?
People often have questions about the legal implications of defending themselves. In general, the tests that are used to determine if physical self-defense was warranted are:
(Would a reasonable person have found it justifiable to use force in these circumstances?)
- Proportionality or “Like force”
(Was the amount of force used by the defender proportional to the amount of force used by the attacker?)
- “Duty to retreat”
(Did the defender retreat from the attacker as soon as the attack had been successfully ended?)
Here is what the 1998 Oregon Criminal Code has to say about the use of deadly physical force in self-defense:
ORS 161.219 Limitations on use of deadly physical force in defense of a person
Notwithstanding the provisions of ORS 161.209, a person is not justified in using deadly physical force upon another person unless the person reasonably believes that the other person is: (1) Committing or attempting to commit a felony involving the use or threatened imminent use of physical force against a person; or (2) Committing or attempting to commit a burglary in a dwelling; or (3) Using or about to use unlawful deadly physical force against a person.
Some resources on use of weapons in self-defense:
Choosing to carry a weapon for self-defense, especially a deadly weapon, is a big decision. It is very important to understand all the legalities of possessing and carrying that particular weapon. Laws about weapons can change from year to year, and are different from city to city and state to state. Always be sure you have the most up-to-date, in-depth information. This handout alone does not give you all the information you need.
For information about carrying a gun, contact your local county sheriff’s office. For information about other weapons, contact your local district attorney’s office.
For more information on legal issues, try these resources:
Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office 503-248-3162
Clackamas County District Attorney’s Office 503-655-8431
Washington County District Attorney’s Office 503-648-8671
Clark County, WA District Attorney’s Office 360-699-2261
Oregon State Bar Lawyer Referral Service 503-684-3763
Legal Aid/ Volunteer Lawyer Project 503-224-4086
TEL-LAW 503-620-3000 (recordings on legal topics)
If you would like a copy of any of the Oregon laws mentioned in this handout, call WomenStrength at 823-0260 to request a copy.