Neil Goldschmidt: Former Oregon Governor's Portrait Removed After the Death of His Victim

Dunham, '04
We now know the name--Elizabeth Dunham--of the woman who was raped by a man in Seattle and sexually assaulted by the mayor of Portland (and later governor of Oregon), Neil Goldschmidt. Dunham had to die for her identity to finally be revealed, as it was last month by Willamette Week, which won a Pulitzer for its original story of what now even Goldschmidt admits was an "illegal" sexual relationship when he was 35 and the victim was 13. Yesterday, however, Dunham, 49 when she died January 16, got a bit of post-mortem revenge when Oregon legislators took the rare step of removing Goldschmidt's gubernatorial portrait from the statehouse in Salem.

According to a statement from the state senate:

The portrait of former Governor Neil Goldschmidt has been removed from the Legislative Library on the fourth floor of the Oregon State Capitol. It will be placed in storage by the Oregon Historical Society, the presiding officers of the Oregon Senate and House of Representatives said Monday.

Senate President Peter Courtney and Co-Speakers Bruce Hanna and Arnie Roblan said the portrait was removed from the capitol "out of respect." Or, if you prefer, in disrespect.

Though The Oregonian first reported Dunham's death in a long retelling of her life, the paper chose not to reveal her name. WW, however, a week later said it was time:

First, the list of things Goldschmidt stole from Dunham should not include her identity. Second, the story of this powerful man's abuse can be more fully told now that his victim can no longer suffer from it.

One of the questions the previous coverage left unanswered, WW said, was how long Goldschmidt's abuse of her lasted. When the paper first reported the story, it referred to Dunham by the pseudonym "Susan," and said the sexual abuse started when she was 14 and continued for three years.

Since that time, Dunham, in conversations with WW and others, has said the abuse started not when she was 14, but rather 13. She also said the relationship continued not for three years but through Goldschmidt's divorce in 1991, until she was nearly 30. In 1994, Goldschmidt quietly reached a $350,000 settlement with Dunham in return for her silence about the abuse.

That was six years after he sent her off to Seattle in the hope of quieting her. In 1988, in the middle of Goldschmidt's term as Oregon governor, Dunham--who suffered from drug abuse and mental illness--became increasingly threatening to his career. She was erratic and talking too much.

Goldschmidt arranged a job at a Seattle law firm where a former colleague at the U.S. Department of Transportation (Goldschmidt was secretary of the department under President Jimmy Carter for two years) worked as a senior partner.

In Seattle, on Dec. 13, 1988, a man named Jeffrey Jacobsen abducted Dunham at knifepoint, took her to her apartment, and raped her. Jacobsen was convicted and sentenced to 53 years in prison.

Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition for which she would receive monthly Social Security payments, Dunham moved back to Portland, where her life continued to spiral downward, says WW reporter Nigel Jaquiss. It was about this time, when she was in her late 20s, that her sexual relationship with Goldschmidt ended. Over the next four years, she would be arrested more than a dozen times, mostly for drug- or alcohol-related offenses.

Dunham died after spending most of the last month of her life at a Portland hospice. Her mother, who had worked for Goldschmidt in the mid-'70s when he was mayor, was at her daughter's side.

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