Domestic Violence Month: Purple lights along streets will help fight a dark, hidden crime

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter

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The YWCA Clark County is turning purple over domestic violence, and invites you to do so, too. It’s also going to toss some discs, teach some self-defense and host a frank discussion about victimhood and survival.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. An average of three women per day are killed by a current or former partner in the United States, and there have been at least 42 domestic violence deaths in the past 13 years in Clark County, according to the YWCA. Young women experience the highest rate of partner violence, and children exposed to violence are more likely to attempt suicide, abuse drugs and alcohol, run away from home — and become abusers themselves.

To raise awareness of these facts, the YWCA is planning a month of activities, starting at 7:30 p.m. Monday with a Purple Light Nights lighting ceremony at its headquarters, 3609 Main Street. The Y is Clark County’s premier agency fighting domestic violence and empowering women, and it operates a domestic violence shelter.

After the ceremony, everyone is encouraged to display their own lights or light strings throughout the month. Make sure you use truly dark purple light bulbs that put out at least 60 watts. Less-powerful lights simply cannot be seen outdoors. Those Halloweeny “black lights” are fine. (Brighter-hued lights, like pink, may suggest that you are spreading the word about National Breast Cancer Awareness Month — also a worthy cause, for sure, and also October.)

Purple Night Lights comes from the city of Covington, where an activist group hatched the idea of stringing up purple lights — individual bulbs or whole strings — as a national awareness campaign in 2007. Since then the idea has gone national. Take a look at http://purplelightnights.org — and at the Y’s website, http://ywcaclarkcounty.org.

Here’s a rundown of the rest of the Y’s October domestic violence awareness events.

• Speak out. Survivors and supporters of domestic violence survivors can share their stories anonymously through the Y website. Visit http://ywcaclarkcounty.org/share.

• Defend yourself. The Y is offering a self-defense class for program participants. Call Vicki, 360-696-0167, for details.

• Play Purple Light Bingo. Call Beth, 360-696-0167, for details.

• Try disc golf, by day and by night. The Y is sponsoring a friendly fundraising disc golf tournament at Leverich Park from 3 to 9 p.m. on Oct. 22. The $20 cost includes a minimum $5 donation to the Y. First comes an afternoon singles round; then, a free dinner, pumpkin carving and an after-dark “glow round.” All participants get a free glow-in-the-dark disc. Register at http://fireflydiscgolf.com/2011_LAD.

• “In Her Shoes.” This workshop features victims and survivors of domestic violence who’ll talk about life on the inside. “Why doesn’t she just leave?” is a typical question demanded of women stuck in abusive relationships; this workshop will explore the complexities of the answer.

For more information about domestic violence and the YWCA Clark County, call Debra Adams, 360-448-6926.

Scott Hewitt: 360-735-4525; Twitter: col_nonprofits; scott.hewitt@columbian.com.