'Go Purple' campaign intends to spread awareness of domestic violence in Western Pennsylvania

| Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012, 9:03 p.m.

Jane Piatt of Washington has made talking about domestic violence her life's work.

A former victim, she volunteers at Domestic Violence Services of Southwestern PA and speaks at churches and events to spread awareness.

“I tell them that in their gathering today, there is a victim. They just don't know who it is,” Piatt, 65, said.

To commemorate October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Western Pennsylvania support agencies are encouraging residents, businesses, students and even pet owners to “Go Purple” and display the cause's official color in a variety of ways.

“We need people to see purple and ask what it's about,” said Lisa Hannum, prevention and education coordinator at Domestic Violence Services of Southwestern PA.

The agency, which offers shelters, a 24-hour hotline, support groups, counseling, community education, legal advocacy programs and transitional housing, helped victims file 1,067 protection from abuse orders in 2011. It serves men and women.

Throughout October, homeowners are encouraged to tie purple bows on trees, lampposts or mailboxes and place “Stop Domestic Violence” signs on their lawns. Domestic Violence Services can provide the materials.

Libraries will display tables with one empty setting to memorialize all victims who have lost their lives because of domestic violence — 166 people died because of it in Pennsylvania last year, according to the agency. Students will engage in anti-bullying projects and sign anti-violence pledges. Police will attach purple magnets to their cars.

Charleroi Area School District students will participate in a slew of activities, including poster contests and anti-bullying discussions.

“We believe it's important kids be able to look at the school district not only as an academic place, but also a place where we teach about caring and taking care of others,” Superintendent Brad Ferko said.

According to Domestic Violence Services, 71 percent of pet-owning women entering shelters reported that their attacker had threatened, injured or killed family pets. Pet owners are encouraged to attach purple ribbons to their animals' collars or crates.

Hannum said the efforts don't go unnoticed.

“We have had people call,” who said they did so because they saw the ribbons and signs, she said. “Some didn't even know we exist. Domestic violence isn't something people readily talk about.”

Women's Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh also will launch the second annual Challenge campaign in October, with the theme “Help Yourself, Help a Friend, Help a Cause.” Donate at www.wcspittsburgh.org/thechallenge.

Piatt said her abuse occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s at the hands of her now-deceased ex-husband. She left once with her two children, but couldn't make it financially, so she returned. Had she had access to the resources available now, she would have left for good much sooner, she said.

The first time she toured the shelter where she volunteers, she cried.

“I saw all these baby diapers and formula,” she said. “These women have no idea how fortunate they are that they have this place to come to.”

Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or rweaver@tribweb.com.

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