As Victoria Throm welcomed the 40 or so people who gathered Monday evening in downtown Enumclaw to mark the start of Domestic Violence Awareness Month with a Purple Night Lights® tree-lighting ceremony, she noticed the one woman who sat quietly, fighting tears as she listened to the presentation.
Others involved with assisting victims of domestic violence quickly came to the woman's aid. For Throm, while the moment was painful, it meant another victim has come forward and was no longer alone in her experience.
That's how Throm, the founder of the Purple Light Nights® and a survivor of domestic violence herself, has to view her work in helping others escape from these unhealthy and sometimes dangerous situations.
Any other way and it's just overwhelming. "But being able to help one person at a time - and seeing that woman come forward - that was good, and she can now get the help she needs" Throm said.
The ceremony in Enumclaw drew local law enforcement officers and leaders including Mayor Liz Reynolds, and 31st Legislative District Reps. Cathy Dahlquist and Chris Hurst who came to support the declaration this month: "Domestic Violence has NO Place in our Community."
Throughout the Purple Light Nights® campaign this month, residents and businesses are encouraged to purchase and put up purple lights to draw awareness to the issue. Throm said her goal in starting the campaign, which is now in 28 states, three Canadian provinces and U.S. territory Guam, was two-fold: to remember the victims who have died, and to bring hope to survivors.
It's an easy way to create a visible reminder, she said. "Anyone can put up a light in their porch or in their business. ... All across the country, we want to paint it purple so every perpetrator will not feel comfortable. For every sign on the businesses that says 'domestic violence has no place in our community,' we want them to feel uncomfortable - that it's not acceptable."
It also helps to embolden the victims. "People need to speak up, and I think they are - they're starting to speak up," she said.
A Community Infection
Dean Smith, founder of Live to Forgive Ministries, spoke to attendees about his own experience as a survivor. In 1986, Smith's mother was murdered by his stepfather here in Enumclaw.
Domestic violence, "it's really affected this community -- or should I say infected this community," he said.
After years of destructive behavior as he wrestled with what had happened to his family, Smith said he was able to find forgiveness in his heart. He wrote about his journey in this column in the Courier-Herald.
In speaking with Patch last year following the murder-suicide of another Enumclaw couple, Smith said, "A sin like this damages the way the victims and families think, the choices they make, and the way they feel. This is experienced by pain and dysfunction in their lives, which forces them to develop coping mechanisms (which lead to more sins and more pain and dysfunction) ... or to forgive, which leads to healing and peace."
Smith noted that reconciliation is not always possible or appropriate but he counted himself fortunate in being able to find the healing that now honors his mother and honors Jesus Christ. For those who suspect something is wrong with a friend or loved one, Smith challenged them to talk about it and to report it. "Hurting people hurts people, and domestic violence hurts our community. ... Stop the cycle of hurt."
Jennifer Batts, the domestic advocate for Enumclaw Municipal Court, described domestic violence as more expansive than the general model of abusive man-victim woman. They can be between family members of the same sex, and men also make up about 15 percent of reported domestic violence victims, according to Throm. "Research is showing more and more that verbal abuse is more damaging to your long-term health than physical abuse," Batts said. "When we're stopping DV, we're talking about stopping the chaotic nature of home environments."
Part of that responsibility falls on the victims themselves. When you decide to speak up and ask for help, "you're making a change in your family when you say I'm not going to be a part of this anymore," Batts said.
Throm, who is also the chair of the Covington Domestic Violence Task Force and still works for the city of Covington, recalls that upon breaking away from her domestic violence situation, she moved to this area to get away and start over.
"I didn't want to talk about it," she said, but she got a job working in human services and found many of the people she served were domestic violence victims. The observation spurred her to form the task force.
That was in 2004. Since then, "it just kind of grew," she said. "It was a way for me to empower myself to finally share my story and make a difference for others. I know how I felt very alone, and I didn't know where to turn to."
Domestic Violence Resources
- Domestic Abuse Women's Network (DAWN) (www.dawnonline.org) | 425-656-7867 - 24 hours | Crisis Hotline: 1-866-286-DAWN (3296) - 24 hours
- Jennifer Beach Foundation (www.jnbfoundation.org) | 253-833-5366
- YWCA of Seattle, King County, and Snohomish County (www.ywcaworks.org) | 425-226-1266
- Plateau Outreach Ministries (www.plateauoutreach.com) | 360-825-8961
- Enumclaw Youth and Family Services (www.eyfs4kids.org) | 360-825-4586
- Out of the Ashes (www.out-of-the-ashes.org) | 206-293-5714
The event was made possible by LINCCK, City of Enumclaw, Enumclaw Regional Healthcare Foundation and St. Elizabeth Hospital.
To purchase purple lights for your home or business, contact LINCCK at 360-825-5581.
Facts about Domestic Violence
Domestic violence, also known as domestic abuse, can be defined as a pattern of controlling behavior over an intimate partner. It has many forms, including physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or financial, and crosses all racial, age, economic and social groups.
- One in four high school students report being abused by a dating partner.
- Costs of medical and mental health care due to domestic violence exceed $5.8 billion each year in the U.S.
- One-third of all police calls are in response to domestic violence disturbance.