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Honoring the Color Purple

Go Purple this month. In observance of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, wear a purple item of clothing or a purple ribbon The color purple and the purple ribbon are symbols to raise awareness about the crime of domestic violence, to remember victims who lost their lives, to honor survivors of domestic violence, and to connect those men and women who work to end violence.

The Color Purple also happens to be the title of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, which Hollywood producer Steven Spielberg made into a movie and media mogul Oprah Winfrey turned into a Broadway musical. The Color Purple tells the inspirational story of Celie, who after 26 years of being domestically and sexually abused by her husband, summons the strength and courage to finally break free.

The color purple has symbolized domestic violence for over 20 years. There is no official record on file, but the recounted legend is that there was a woman from the Midwest in the 1980s that left an abusive relationship and went on to become the director of a battered women’s program. Her batterer was released from jail, found her, and killed her in her home. Her mourners wore her favorite color, PURPLE, to demonstrate their grief as well as to make a statement against domestic violence.

Developed by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV; http://www.ncadv.org), Domestic Violence Awareness Month evolved from the “Day of Unity” in October 1981. The first official Domestic Violence Awareness Month was observed in October 1987. Since then, events have been held nationally to demonstrate a powerful declaration by celebrating the strength of victims and their children.

Over the next few weeks, you will turn on the TV, tune into the radio, pick up a magazine, or click on the net and see stories about women and men (who represent 38% of injured victims), who have freed themselves from the trappings of an abusive relationship. You will come across stats like every 12 to 15 seconds a woman in the United States is battered by an intimate partner; up to six million women are believed to be beaten in their homes each year; or that over 30% of all homicides of women in America are committed by intimate partners, all according to NCADV.

In conjunction with Ms. Magazine, NCADV has a national registry of names of those who have lost their lives to domestic violence. Since 1994, over 7,753 people have been memorialized through the Remember My Name project. New names are added daily.

Whenever we read such information, the question that often springs to mind is why would a woman stay in abusive relationship until the point of her own demise? Is she that so blindly in love? But the real question should be why women in abusive relationships are unable to leave.

Sometimes there are obstacles such as lack of finances, fear of losing custody of their children, unawareness of resources or options available to them, no place to go or no one to trust even in the church community where battering ministers preside, or retaliation from abusers who will hurt not only the woman but a family member.

Often outsiders looking in have that air of superiority of what they would do or what they would not tolerate. There needs to be an honest open dialogue about the realities of domestic violence. First, let’s acknowledge that domestic violence is a CRIME. As a society, communities, and individuals, we need to ensure there are legitimate support systems for victims to get free of their abuser and to end the widespread, deadly problem of domestic violence.

—Carolyn M. Brown

Categories: Relationships
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