Perpetrator is an interesting word.
It's been made popular by police departments, followed closely by TV shows that focus on solving violent crimes.
But "perp" and perpetrator are modern contrivances, watered-down terms for the deviants who live among us. The words may be useful in a police report, but they're inadequate to describe the damage caused.
Our grandfathers (and maybe, quietly, our grandmothers) would refer to wife-beaters as bastards and S.O.B.s (that would be the grandmothers; Grandpa seldom used initials).
But those words unintentionally focused on the heritage, rather than character, of the abuser.
Coward and bully -- sometimes murderer -- suit the crime more precisely.
Even one of our greatest bulwarks against spousal and family abuse, Domestic Violence Services of Benton & Franklin Counties, uses the word perpetrator, modeled perhaps after the police who go out and trot the bad guys off to jail.
Domestic Violence Services and its executive director, Kelly Abken, deal with the victims and their families.
"Victims have to make all the accommodations for the perpetrators' behavior," she told Herald reporter Paula Horton. "Too many victims, when they are able to break free, they ... lose everything."
Horton reported that on just one day in 2009, "domestic violence advocates took a census of services provided to victims around the country and found that while many victims were getting support they needed, thousands were still being turned away when they sought help."
In Washington, she reported, nearly 1,600 victims were served on that particular day, Sept. 15, 2009.
About 900 sought refuge in emergency shelters or transitional housing. Another 563 called domestic violence hotlines seeking help.
And nationwide, more than 65,000 victims received help from domestic violence programs, but because of funding and program cuts, more than 9,000 others didn't get the help they needed.
For 33 years, Domestic Violence Services of Benton & Franklin Counties has been an ally to victims and their children who have been tormented at the hands of an abuser.
They admit, as do police officials across the country, that one way to begin cutting back on the incidents of domestic violence is for the victims to testify against those who have abused them.
But because the abuser often is the main financial support for the entire family, the victims often choose continued abuse for themselves over hunger for their children.
The situation may seem hopeless, but Domestic Violence Services, despite the difficulties, is always available for victims to call for help.
That number is 509-735-1295.
No word can really do justice to those who abuse their domestic partners. We can think of at least one name that's more appropriate than perpetrator.