Why purple?

by Dave Dunaway

SAFE San Juans

This past September, staff members from SAFE San Juans hit the streets on Lopez, Orcas and San Juan Islands to ask business owners for their support for the nearing October’s national campaign, Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The agency offered purple lights for sale to any interested as a way to spread community awareness of domestic violence, and this boots-on-the-ground approach was met with resounding enthusiasm. The result was an outstanding showing of radiant, purple light displays in many of the islands’ store-front windows.

Many inquired as to why purple is the color selected to heighten awareness for domestic violence. Historically, purple was associated with royalty and military bravery due to the difficulty of producing that color of dye, thus its relative rarity and heightened value. Early in the last century, the United States National Women’s Party was formed to unite suffragists in their extended fight for the right of women to vote. The organization’s chosen colors: gold, white, and purple. Adornments of the color purple started to appear more frequently and in greater number in the following years to demonstrate a more unified front amongst women seeking enfranchisement. Soon, the color became directly associated with women’s strength. When the movement to end gender-based violence against women picked up steam in the 1970s, purple was the natural choice for a color to go with the cause.

Almost fifty years have passed, yet purple remains synonymous with support for survivors of domestic violence. Though the movement began in support of women, it is now clear that domestic violence survivors are statistically represented by individuals of all gender identities, and more efforts are being made to cast light on this reality. We know that domestic violence impacts people of every gender, race, age, religion, political affiliation, nationality, etc. In short, the purple glow seen throughout the islands this past month for DVAM was to honor all survivors of domestic violence who endured, and who may still be experiencing mental, emotional, and physical setbacks as a result of their abuse.

SAFE San Juans staff anticipates that survivor empowerment will glow even brighter in future years given how well DVAM was embraced in 2022. We ask that any participating community members safely stow their purple lights away for repeated use during the DVAM’s to come. And, as October 2023 approaches, SAFE San Juans will be selling purple lights again, and hopefully, more individuals and business owners alike will brighten their homes and businesses to spread awareness for this impactful campaign. Thank you to all for the ongoing, community-wide dedication to end domestic violence within our communities, and for celebrating the courage required of our islands’ survivors to affect positive changes within their lives.

SAFE San Juans (SAFE) is a non-profit agency serving survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse/assault. With offices in Friday Harbor, Eastsound, and Lopez Village, all of SAFE’s services are confidential, free, and available to anyone who needs them. To talk with someone from SAFE San Juans, call 360-378-8680 or visit www.safesj.org. SAFE’s 24/7 crisis line is always staffed and can be reached at 360-378-2345. If you are in immediate danger, please call 911.