Students go purple for relationship violence awareness

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Carolina Feminist Coalition, Carolina Advocates for Gender Equality, UNC Feminist Students United, and UNC Siren come together for Paint It Purple to raise awareness for Relationship Violence Awareness month at the Campus Y.

What began as a conversation about a person’s purple hair became a unique idea to fight one of the most problematic issues facing college campuses today — relationship violence. 

“We just jokingly got on the topic of hair, but then someone said, ‘what if we dyed everyone’s hair on-campus?’” said Alli Whitenack, co-chair of the organization Carolina Advocating for Gender Equity. “We all loved the idea since purple is the color of the month, so it all kind of developed from there.”

The event in question, entitled “Paint it Purple for RVAM!,” looked to raise donations as part of Relationship Violence Awareness Month. It was held by the Carolina Feminist Coalition, a group comprised of multiple UNC organizations including CAGE and Feminist Students United. Students lined up to have CFC members dye their hair and paint their nails and face using semi-permanent purple dye with the option of donating money to the cause.

Emily Hagstrom, another co-chair at CAGE who worked the event, said their goal was to raise student awareness of both relationship violence and what that it fully means.

“We want people to know that relationship violence extends not only to what we think of as being domestic relationships but also within our campus community,” Hagstrom said. “We’re really just trying to build community support around the issue and make people realize that it does happen on campus so we can get together and be proactive to stop it.”

All of the proceeds raised from the event went to the Compass Center, a Chapel Hill organization that provides prevention and advocacy services to individuals and families struggling with relationship violence. These services include a confidential 24-hour hotline, safety planning, crisis counseling and emergency shelter placement.

Cordelia Heaney, executive director of the Compass Center, has seen their client base of relationship violence victims increase in recent years. Heaney said that five years ago, she saw them serve around 700 clients on the domestic violence side of their services. Last year, that number nearly doubled at around 1300 clients.

Heaney said that one of the biggest misconceptions she sees today about the issue of relationship abuse is the idea that someone facing this abuse can leave the situation. Ninety-eight percent of domestic violence victims experience financial abuse — anything from ruining their partner's credit or getting them fired to using allowances to restrict their funding. 

“For many people, the reason they don’t leave is because they aren’t financially able to," Heaney said.

The Compass Center will be holding their own events to raising awareness for the month. Among many things planned, they will host a free screening of the documentary “Five Awake” on Oct. 23 at the Varsity Theatre. 

Heaney hopes that their efforts this month can help expand peoples’ idea of what relationship violence truly is, especially regarding who domestic violence affects.

“When you look at the numbers, domestic violence doesn’t discriminate," Heaney said. "It affects men and women, it affects people regardless of gender identity or expression, economic status, religion, ethnicity or race. One in three women and one in four men will experience it, so it cuts across all categories.”

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