Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of two. Next edition, The Courier-Herald will provide a look into domestic violence from a police perspective. And will also provide more information on resources available for victims and survivors. Names and dates in this story have been changed to protect survivors and their families.
If you were to walk around Covington near City Hall in the evening, trees lit with purple lights shine bright.
If you wander through downtown Enumclaw, silhouettes stand to bring awareness to victims and survivors of domestic violence.
It was 29 years ago, October of 1987, when the first Domestic Violence Awareness Month was observed nationwide.
And according to the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, that is the same year the domestic violence toll-free hotline was created.
Often people think of domestic violence as physical, sexual or psychological attacks between a couple.
But as The Courier-Herald reached out to the community looking for survivors to tell their story, we quickly learned that is not always the case.
Domestic Violence is a way for someone to gain, maintain or regain power and control in a relationship, and can not only happen in a romantic relationship but between a parent and their child, between siblings and between caregivers and their patients.
Finding A Way Out
Bonnie, a Maple Valley resident, suffered at the hands of her then-boyfriend of seven years. He was her high-school boyfriend and father of her daughter.
The two met when she was 15 and he was 16. Bonnie said “he was the bad boy every girl wanted and I was the supposed ‘lucky one’ that got him.”
There is a misconception about domestic violence that the relationship starts out abusive, Bonnie said.
Like with many relationships that start out with a “honeymoon stage,” Bonnie said there is a similar stage with domestic violent relationships. She referred to it as “(the abuser’s) grooming time.”
She described it as the time where the abuser will begin brainwashing the victim to think the way they do. The abuser will also begin to tear down their confidence “piece by piece.”
Before she knew it, Bonnie said she had been groomed. He began by telling her clothing was too tight or too short. Then he moved on her friends, cutting out any who disagreed with them being together.
“As time went on and we got older, it continued to get worse,” Bonnie said.
They moved into together because he convinced her things would be better if they did. But it didn’t.
“(It) got horribly worse. I no longer had an identity,” she said.
He controlled many aspects of her life. When she returned home from work, she said, he would take her keys from her and she could only leave the house when he gave permission.
She also said he would take the radio from her car and only give it back to her if she had behaved.
While in public, Bonnie said “he would act like a normal guy.” Adding that if he did feel she had acted “out of line” she would receive a certain look or he would mumble something under his breath or grab hold of her.
Bonnie described times where if he felt like he didn’t have enough control over her he would act out. She said one time he did this by jumping out of a moving car or he would “flash his blue switch blade knife at me.”
Bonnie said the physical abuse got worse once their daughter was born.
She described some instances where she was thrown in a closet, or where he held her down on the floor with their baby on top of her and he held a knife to her throat on his parent’s front porch, threatening to kill her.
Bonnie said if she ever tried to leave he would again threaten her and would threaten to take their baby away from her.
There was one time, Bonnie said she remembers vividly where she attempted to leave him.
She described it as a warm summer day and said he was “in one of his raging moods of yelling and screaming.”
Knowing that violence was coming next, Bonnie said she grabbed her daughter, diaper bag and purse and told him she was going to the grocery store. Instead she went to a gas station down the street and used the payphone.
Not knowing who to call, she called his parents. She told them she was scared and that she needed to go somewhere safe. She said they let her come to their house.
She asked them not to tell him where she was, but they did.
So after spending one night with them, she spent another at her mom’s, she said.
Around that time, when she was 21, Bonnie said she came to the realization that in order to protect herself and her daughter she would need to leave him.
This day came as she was beaten so badly that her brand new off-white pants suit, which she had gotten for a new job, was covered in blood.
With the help of her family and her friends that were left, the ones he didn’t push out of her life, Bonnie was able to get herself and her baby away from him.
The battle wasn’t over though. Once Bonnie left, she spent time battling him in court.
She said he still attempted to intimidate her “but to his surprise, and at times my own, it did not work!”
Bonnie added as time went on, she started to see just how weak he really was.
“I very slowly took back this life of mine he had claimed,” she said. “I reconnected with friends, became closer to my family and began raising my baby on my own.”
It took a few years, Bonnie added, for her to realize he no longer had any control over her life.
Domestic violence doesn’t just hurt the victim themselves, it affects many others close to the situation.
Bonnie said the events that happened over the seven years affected her family and her friends.
“It destroyed me and they could do nothing until I was ready to leave,” she said.
Another victim of the violence was Bonnie’s daughter.
Bonnie said he was ordered by the courts to take a number of classes including domestic violence, drug rehabilitation, parenting classes and mental evaluation.
But he still has not done so, Bonnie said. Their daughter is now 17 years old.
From the time she was 18 months old until she was 9, he was able to see his daughter under the supervision of his parents, Bonnie said.
But when their daughter turned 8, his parents started letting him see her alone. After a return trip back to court, his family’s rights were taken away until he completed the classes he was ordered to complete.
And still, Bonnie said, he has not done any of them.
Bonnie said her life now, “is a huge 180 degree difference.”
“I am filled with confidence and have a life filled with love, support and positivity,” she added.
She has been married to her “loving husband” for 11 years now, for the past 12 years she has been working for the same company and she has “two beautiful and smart children.” Adding, a month ago they bought their “forever dream home.”
Bonnie said telling her story is worth it if it helps, “even one person get out of a dangerous situation.”
Father and Son
Domestic violence situations are not all the same.
For Johnathan, it started when he was 6 years old.
He said he would have to have permission from his father before he could use the bathroom.
“A couple of times, I didn’t, I just went to go to the bathroom and he just stormed in and broke the door down and grabbed me and started wailing on me for no reason,” Johnathan said.
Adding that his mom would step in, upset at his father for doing that because he was using the bathroom on his own. But he would then “grab her by the neck and throw her up against a wall.”
Johnathan, one of several siblings, said his father would also do the same thing to his sister and brothers.
He described scenes where his siblings and him would be play fighting. That is when he said, his father would “grab me by my throat and hold me down and start punching me.”
“‘Is it funny for you to hit your brother? Is this funny? Is this funny?,'” Johnathan said his father would say while punching him.
He said this all happened up until he was 18 years old.
“It was either his way or no way,” Johnathan said. “He never let my mom do anything. When my parents finally got divorced, it was a sign of relief.”
He added, his mom’s job, according to his dad, was to work, come home and get groceries. “He wouldn’t let my mom have any say in the house.”
Johnathan was 23 years old when his parents divorced.
His father was the one who filed for divorce.
Johnathan said the years of abuse impacted him outside the home. “I was a shy kid. I didn’t want to talk to anybody.”
He added, for the most part he kept to himself until he got to high school.
One day, Johnathan said he watched his father beat his brother. He talked with a counselor at school, but they didn’t do anything about it. He even went to the counselor at his brother’s school, but they didn’t do anything either.
“They said if anything is wrong, go to your counselor,” he added. “That’s what I did and they didn’t do anything.”
When Johnathan was 18, he was given a week by his father to get a job. Once the week was up, he was told to “get your stuff and get out” when he told his father he hadn’t heard back from anyone yet.
He did return home because his mom had him come back. But he wasn’t able to sleep in his room, so he had to sleep on the couch. His mom was also sleeping on a couch because she “didn’t want to be in the same bed with him,” Johnathan said.
He said when he asked his mom why she stayed with his father, she would say she was scared.
Johnathan said that because his dad had a stable, well-paying job, “she was scared if they split up earlier, she wouldn’t be able to take care of the kids.”
“She (stayed) just so she could have a roof over her head,” he added.
Since his parents divorced nearly 12 years ago, Johnathan said he has not talked to his father.
“He doesn’t even want to see his granddaughter,” Johnathan said. “He doesn’t want nothing to do with me or my two younger brothers.”
A similarity to Bonnie’s story, is how Johnathan’s father acted in public.
“Nobody knew what he was doing at home,” he said.
And if ever Johnathan or his siblings were left with bruises, he said they would stay home from school for a week and a half until they went away.
When asked what he would have done differently, Johnathan said he wishes he “would have spoken up sooner. Way sooner.”
When it comes to Johnathan and his kids he said, “I’m never going to be like my father. I’m going to be the total opposite. I don’t see how a person can do that to their own kids. I don’t.”
There is Help
What resources are available for victims?
Bonnie said there a number of different avenues available locally to help.
The Domestic Abuse Women’s Network (DAWN) in Tukwila is “a big one,” Bonnie said.
She added there are crisis lines and advocacy groups in communities for victims to visit like the Covington Domestic Violence Task Force, Vine Maple Place in Maple Valley and many others.
“I sadly did not know of any resources back then,” she said. “They were not as readily available as they are now.”
When asked what she would want the community to understand domestic violence, Bonnie said she wants “the community to know and support that domestic violence has no place in our community.”
“It is up to each of us to come together and stand up to domestic violence,” she added.
She wants people to talk openly to their children and teach them to know what the warning signs are.
“If you know someone that is in a violent relationship, be there for them. Remind them of the support and tools available to them,” she said.
Bonnie’s advice to those victims in a domestic violent situation is to “understand that you are worthy and are not alone.”
There are resources available, she added, and people “eagerly waiting and wanting to help you achieve all that you want to be in life.”
Domestic violence is never OK. If you or anyone knows someone in a violent situation, look locally in your area for resources to help.
Domestic Abuse Women’s Network (DAWN) (services and education)
• 425-656-7867 / http://dawnrising.org
Domestic Violence Statewide Hotline
• 800-562-6025 / www.wscadv.org
Pierce County YWCA (shelter and services)
• 253-383-2593 / www.ywcapiercecounty.org
King County and Seattle YWCA (emergency shelter)
• 206-461-4882 / www.ywcaworks.org
Associated Ministries Housing & Shelter Services (shelter and referral program)
• 253-383-3056 / 253-682-3401 / www.associatedministries.org