By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist
It can happen to anyone. A high school dropout or the most likely to succeed, anyone can fall victim. Domestic violence doesn’t discriminate.
State Rep. Elizabeth Scott knows that.
She wasn’t always a lawmaker from Monroe, a Republican representing the 39th Legislative District. She wasn’t always happily married to her husband, Paul.
Scott, 47, knows it can happen, the terror, pain and isolation. She knows how it hurts.
She was once a young teacher working in China. The oldest of five children from an Illinois farm family, she had worked hard and finished college. Ready to launch her life, she was dating another teacher, an American.
“We fell in love and got married,” Scott told a lunchtime crowd Thursday in the Edward G. Hansen Conference Center at Everett’s Comcast Arena.
As keynote speaker at the annual Hope Within luncheon, a fundraiser for Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County, Scott shared a personal story she had never before told in public. It was the story of her descent into the hell of an abusive relationship, and of her escape with the help of family and community.
“Some things I had to learn the hard way,” Scott said.
It wasn’t long after her first marriage that blow-ups began, with “threats and sheer terror,” followed by “a tentative desire to trust again,” Scott said.
She recalled living like she was walking on eggshells, before the inevitable would happen — “an explosion again, and the terror.”
She lived under a dark cloud. There would be apologies, always with a catch. Scott said her then-husband would tell her, “I’m sorry, but I was frustrated.” Or he would say, “I’m sorry, but you made me so mad.”
“Finally, the apologies stopped altogether,” she said.
She felt isolated. Her self-esteem bottomed out. And she dreaded becoming the first in her family to get divorced. But with a 2-year-old son, six years into the marriage, she considered not only her life but what her child was seeing and hearing.
She made a plan, packed a minivan, and left. “I showed up on my parents’ doorstep,” she said.
With evidence in the journals she kept and some written apologies from her abuser, she was granted full custody of her son. She struggled financially as a single mom. Still a teacher, she had help with child care from her parents and grandparents.
Later, she moved to the Seattle area. She juggled teaching jobs at Cascadia and North Seattle community colleges and Lake Washington Technical College.
“Two years after moving to Washington, I married Paul,” she said. “He brought a daughter, I brought a son, and we had another little girl.” They have celebrated their 11th anniversary.
Thursday’s luncheon marked Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and also celebrated a big milestone for the Everett-based agency. Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County is about to open its new 52-bed shelter and service center at what was a military surplus site in north Everett.
Robin Reinig, chairwoman of the Domestic Violence Services board of directors, said the facility was a dream seven years ago. The agency turned some victims away because its 15-bed shelter is too small. Within two weeks, the agency will move to the new service center, and clients will move to the new shelter in about a month, Reinig said.
Board members Peter Gordt and Bernadine Terry, who raised money for the project, were honored at the lunch. There was also applause for Washington’s first lady Trudi Inslee, who attended the event, and Deborah Parker, vice chairwoman of the Tulalip Tribes.
In March, Parker was in Washington, D.C., to see President Barack Obama sign the Violence Against Women Act. The Tulalip woman had pushed for changes in the law to give tribal authorities power to prosecute non-Indians for abuse committed on tribal land. The law also expanded legal protections for gay and lesbian victims.
In a somber tribute Thursday, state Rep. Marko Liias, a 21st District Democrat, read the names of people in Washington — nearly 40 of them — who died as a result of domestic violence. On the list were men, women and children; there were shootings, stabbings and beatings.
In 2012, according to the Washington State Coaliton Against Domestic Violence, the deaths of 53 people were linked to domestic violence. That number included victims killed by partners or ex-partners; friends, family members and children killed by abusers; and homicides and suicides of abusers.
Liias, his voice choked with emotion, said “I didn’t realize how tough it would be to read so many names.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.