Protection, one case at a time

It may be commonplace to view domestic violence as a pervasive and monolithic problem: A big “thing” we just wish would disappear.

In truth, a heart-rending mixture of emotional, developmental, social and economic factors gives domestic violence many faces and unleashes it in many different circumstances.

It can involve physical and psychological violence, coercion, stalking or bullying. It can be rural, urban or suburban. It can occur among family members and partners young or old. It can scar so-called respectable families and fragmented families alike.

And there is no cure-all.

Government and organizations can create programs that reduce the rate of these crimes or provide support for victims. Media and education can foster awareness and healthier social models. But this “big problem” is actually thousands and thousands of specific, individual tragedies. And each one requires its own intervention or response.

An April 17 article by Daily Herald reporter Rikki King identified a frequent dynamic among domestic violence cases in our region: Girls or young women are being killed by older boyfriends or male partners. In Washington, a majority of murder-suicides involve an intimate partner; 94 percent of the victims are female and a third are younger than 21.

Even before violence begins, there often are warning signs that a girl’s personal life is growing dangerous: Repeated breakups, bullying, efforts by a male to control the female’s choices and activities, and suicide threats from the abuser.

The protection of potential victims falls on our shoulders as individuals. Ominous developments in these interpersonal relationships aren’t tracked by governments or organizations, they aren’t always detected at school or church — they are apparent only to close friends and family.

When we are aware of these situations, it is easy to butt out … assuming our involvement would be unwelcome.

But we owe our sisters and daughters and friends more than polite restraint. We need to actively connect them with the legal and social services that may save their lives.

Even if our personal circle of friends and family doesn’t include anyone facing this kind of threat, we can support groups and agencies in our community that are committed to intervening on behalf of those threatened by domestic abuse.

A good place to start is the Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County, which operates a hotline (425-25-ABUSE) and provides emergency shelter and confidential services to victims. It also offers free Teen Dating Violence Prevention presentations. Ways to support these programs can be found online,

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