Counties 'Go Purple' to prevent violence

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Purple is popping up in a lot of places this month in Washington, Greene and Fayette counties.

"Go Purple" is the name of a campaign by Domestic Violence Services of Southwestern Pennsylvania to raise awareness during October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness month.

Last year, domestic violence claimed 166 lives in Pennsylvania, according to the agency, which serves the three-county region. Domestic violence affects 1 in 4 women in the United States each year.

Purple bows and ribbons as well as literature are available from the agency for residents and business owners to display on homes, businesses, trees, cars and pets this month.

Many local police departments are displaying magnetic car ribbons that say "Stop the Violence," and the commissioners in each of the counties will proclaim October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Libraries in all three counties are displaying an empty place at the table to represent those who have lost their lives to domestic violence.

Items donated by family members who have lost a loved one because of domestic violence will be displayed as a memorial at the annual fundraising dinner titled "Peace Begins at Home," which will be held Oct. 17 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh -- Meadow Lands, 340 Racetrack Road, in North Strabane.

Elementary school students will dip their hands in purple paint to create "Hands Are Not for Hitting" collages to be displayed during school open houses. Middle school students will decorate T-shirts illustrating nonviolent behavior that also will be displayed during open houses.

Domestic Violence Services of Southwestern Pennsylvania will encourage high schools to participate, possibly expanding on the "purple-out" held by Washington High School last year, in which students used purple athletic tape, cheerleaders wore purple ribbons and shoelaces, and nonviolence pledges were signed.

"The stadium was just purple with decorations," Lisa Hannum, prevention and education coordinator for the agency, said of last year's event.

This year, a new part of the campaign is called "Let's PAWS for Domestic Violence." It is aimed at pet-related businesses to increase awareness that "pet abuse is one of the four most significant indicators of who is at greatest risk of becoming a domestic batterer," Ms. Hannum said. "A pet is a control factor. If your abuser is harming your pet, you are more likely to do what the abuser wants."

According to the agency's literature, 71 percent of female pet owners who entered a women's shelter reported that their batterer had threatened, injured, maimed or killed family pets for revenge or psychological control.

The agency provides a 24-hour hotline, two temporary shelters, support groups, legal advocacy programs, transitional housing and community education and training programs.

It also conducts age-appropriate programs for preschool through college. Talks for young children, for example, focus on "hands are not for hitting, words are not for hurting."

The agency also conducts classes on anti-bullying, cyberbullying and dating violence, which is a growing problem, Ms. Hannum said.

"One of our responsibilities is to make people aware of domestic violence, so we have the 'Go Purple' campaign to generate conversations," Ms. Hannum said.

"We want people to know who we are, what we do and that we exist so that those who may need our services are able to access our services.

We want to go out and speak ... not only to make the public aware of services but to educate on what domestic violence is so people can make decisions and end up in healthier relationships."

For more information or to donate: www.womens-shelter.com or 724-223-5477. The 24-hour hotline for domestic violence services is 724-223-9190.

neigh_south - neigh_washington

Jill Thurston, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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