Female cyclists ride to end domestic violence

Each September, hundreds of women come from throughout the region to take a stand – or more accurately, a ride, against the problem – domestic violence. Cycle the Wave, Sept. 18, is a non-competitive bicycle race for women on the Eastside that gives 100 percent of proceeds to nonprofits such as Eastside Domestic Violence Program (EDVP). Last year, Cycle the Wave brought in more than 800 riders, 100 volunteers and $80,000.

Think of four women right now.

They could be coworkers, friends, acquaintances, neighbors or loved ones; wives, mothers, partners, daughters or sisters.

Now, still thinking of those women, know this: One of them will be a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime.

It was this staggering fact that help inspire an annual Eastside event four years ago: Cycle the Wave (Women Against Violence Everywhere). This non-competitive bicycle ride for women Sept. 18. puts 100 percent of proceeds toward helping victims of domestic violence.

“So often, women put their families or careers first, but this is something they can do for themselves,” said Sharon Anderson, executive director of the event and avid cyclist.

Last year, Cycle the Wave brought in more than 800 riders, 100 volunteers and $80,000. This year, more than 1,000 women have registered.

Anderson and her fellow organizers, the Lakemont Ladies Cycling Club and Rising Star Guild, aimed to create a program that would help women be more fit, while benefiting a great cause at the same time. But Anderson couldn’t anticipate what an empowering experience Cycle the Wave would truly become.

“It’s an issue we’ve all been affected by, either personally, or someone we know,” said Jennifer Armen-Bolen, who’s been involved since the first year in 2008, originally as a rider, now as a volunteer.

The ride is special for many reasons, Armen-Bolen said. The routes, which goes through Issaquah, Bellevue, Maple Valley, Renton and Newcastle with rest stops along the way, provide a scenic backdrop. Husbands, families and cheerleaders from local high schools, cheer on the cyclists. At the finish, riders are pampered with treats like salon and reflexology services.

“There’s a lot to keep the inspiration going, from giving flowers to every rider, to firefighters handing out Hot Tamales, we try to create this atmosphere of girl power,” said Nancy Belur, strategic planning director.

New to Cycle the Wave this year is a 12-Mile “Little Sister” route for younger cyclists. Additionally, riders can choose between the 25-mile “Girly Girl” ride through the rolling hills of Bellevue’s quiet neighborhoods, the 42-mile “Middle Sister” offering a few more scenic miles, and the 62-mile “Burly Girl” route. Each starts out in Tibbets Valley Park in Issaquah.

With this variety, riders of all levels can participate.

And the growing numbers of participants has tremendously added to the conversation about domestic violence – an issue that’s often overlooked as a problem on the Eastside.

“A common misconception is that it’s not a problem here,” said Kelly Becker, Eastside Domestic Violence Program (EDVP) development director and collaborator with Cycle the Wave.

In 2010, EDVP answered 10,069 crisis line calls and worked with 4,700 local domestic violence victims.

This year, EDVP has had a rise in urgent requests for services such as shelter and basic necessities. Many of the program’s clients are victims of assault and felony cases.

Melody Scherting, city ambassador director for Cycle the Wave, said it’s been moving to see people be empowered by the ride, including the survivors themselves.

For example, Scherting’s husband, a volunteer, helped a mom and daughter who were lost last year. In the pouring rain, he rode with the women until they found the route again. Later on, Scherting would learn how much his gesture of help was appreciated.

“The mom said it was the first time her teenage daughter had ever experienced such a kind and caring man.”

Did you know?

– One in four women in the U.S. will experience domestic abuse

– Women account for 85 percent of victims, men account for 15 percent

– Domestic violence crosses all social, religious, ethnic, racial, gender, age and economic lines

– It has many forms: physical violence, sexual violence, economic control, and psychological assault

– If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, call EDVP’s 24-Hour Crisis Line for help or for additional resources in your area.  425-746-1940 or 800-827-8840.

For more information and to register for Cycle the Wave, go to http://cyclethewave.org/.