It’s tempting to dismiss the violence occurring in our community. It’s far easier to imagine such pain living in another neighborhood. In recent days, the topic of domestic violence reemerged as celebrity Chris Brown was charged with the assault of pop star and girlfriend Rihanna. As headlines ran, we remembered O.J. Simpson and Nicole Brown and we are again reminded abuse and violence in intimate relationships dwell in every corner of the world without prejudice — in Hollywood and at home in Bothell.
We prefer to imagine we do not know this kind of pain in our back yard, in our neighborhood, in our place of work, school or religious community — but abuse and violence in intimate relationship is more pervasive than we’re often able to discern. Violence and abuse within marriages and among families is one of the greatest sources of secrecy and shame among our own particular communities and within our nation.
Nearly one out of every three adult women will be assaulted within an intimate relationship. More than one half of marriages will experience at least one act of violence. These images do not begin to represent the pervasive presence of emotional violence occurring in relationship either apart from or alongside physical violation — for this nature of domestic violence is far more difficult to measure. Domestic violence is any abusive pattern of behavior that includes physical, sexual, emotional, psychological and/or spiritual acts of destruction. It is the infliction of pain in any of these realms, ultimately injuring and dishonoring both body and soul.
Domestic violence and family abuse does not discriminate in its presence in families. It is a pain known among all social and economic classes, racial and ethnic groups, educational backgrounds, religious affiliations and sexual orientations. It is a cyclical pattern of behavior where one person in the relationship uses the infliction of pain to diminish the other’s sense of self and their experience of personal power. The tension of expectant destructive and painful behaviors, the events themselves of violence or abusive words and the regret or apology following is a powerful dance that continues when one or both people in the relationship believe this cycle will somehow end without seeking change from outside the relationship.
In many abusive relationships, it is both the recipient and the inflictor of pain that desire change within their lives. Often the secrecy and shame of violence and pain within the home challenges one or both people in the relationship from seeking help in changing abusive patterns. It is when one of the partners within an abusive relationship realizes that change will not occur within isolation that there is hope for creating a difference.
It is in reaching outside the relationship that there is hope for change either for the individuals within the relationship or for the relationship itself. Domestic violence and abusive behavior is a learned way of being in relationship. Often its roots are in family histories and continuing cycles of violence. Since such violence and abuse is a learned way of being connected to intimate others, it is way of relationship that can be unlearned over time — creating an opportunity for more honoring and respectful ways of coming together.
If you or someone you love is experiencing abuse within an intimate relationship, I encourage you to consider the following national and local resources:
• National Domestic Violence Hotline (www.ndvh.org)
• Eastside Domestic Violence Program (www.edvp.org)
• Domestic Abuse Women’s Network (www.dawnonline.org)
Additionally, our own Bothell Police Department (www.ci.bothell.wa.us) is an invaluable resource for those seeking information or legal resources toward increasing safety and protection from violence. For non-emergent calls and to speak further with an officer, please call (425) 486-1254. Officers are willing and available to walk with you toward a safer journey. The department’s Web site also provides informational assistance.
A note to adolescents, abuse and violence within teenage dating relationships is far too common to this generation. If your teenage son or daughter is in an intimate relationship and you would like to provide them with additional support, TeenLink (1-866-TeenLink) is a confidential hotline serving teens each weeknight between 6-10 p.m.
Love may not always be flawless, but it doesn’t hurt and it doesn’t hit. If you are hurting in your intimate relationship, seek support and move toward the kind of love you desire. You, and Rihanna, are both worth the journey.
Shannon Renae West, MS LMFT, is a licensed family therapist working with adolescents and young adults in Bothell. For more information, visit www.ShannonRenae.com.