For years, Greene County has been turning purple in October. That isn’t the result of any fall-blooming flower, but the work of Domestic Violence Services of Southwestern Pennsylvania (DVSSP), aided by community members, as October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
For the fifth consecutive year, the nonprofit is kicking off the month with a PeaceFromDV Walk on Saturday, Sept. 28, at the Church of the Covenant, 267 East Beau Street, in Washington. The walk is around a mile long, according to organizers, and starts at noon. However, that isn’t the only attraction of the DVSSP’s event, which runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The Washington Fire Dept. and Washington County Sheriff’s department will be present, as well as partner organizations, such as the Literacy Council of Southwestern PA and NAACP. DVSSP will have informational tables and counselors available for anyone who needs it.
The theme for the 2019 walk is “Services for free. Services for all. Services beyond our walls.”
“A lot of people, when they think of us, they think of it just being a shelter…We want to let people know that we’re so much more than a safe house because we do the empowerment counseling, we do one-on-one counseling, we do group counseling,” said Kelly Young, DVSSP donations and resources coordinator. “We want people to get information. We want to people to know there’s hope out there.”
The goal is for the event to be family-friendly. Children can enjoy a kids zone and pets, preferably all wearing purple, are welcome. Yes, even the pets: Young said there is one reoccurring attendee who dresses her dog in a purple tutu for the event.
The walk is also a chance for the organization to raise funds. The goal for this year’s event is $20,000, to which people can contribute online at http://bit.ly/dvsspwalks, by texting “DVSSP” to 41411 or in person the day of the event.
Moreover, DVSSP is raffling two prizes this year, a romantic night out in Pittsburgh and a gas grill, each valued at $500. Tickets cost $5 and can be purchased by calling 724-208-5529. The raffle will be drawn during the walk at 12:30 p.m.
DVSSP pays its bills and continues to support domestic violence survivors mostly through grants. The fundraisers are a way to cover expenses such as gas for transporting domestic violence survivors to safe houses, as well as purchasing food, clothes and other items they need.
The organization covers three counties in Southwestern Pennsylvania – Fayette, Greene and Washington – with offices in all of them and safe houses in Uniontown and Washington.
Similar nonprofits have been working in the area since the 1970s.
In 1985, an agency focused specifically on domestic violence opened in Washington County. The group extended their services to Greene County in 1993, with the opening of a satellite counseling center in Waynesburg. In 2010, it joined forces with an organization that provided the same services in Fayette County and, the following year, the nonprofit officially changed its name to Domestic Violence Services of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
“A woman is beaten every 15 seconds and 2,000 to 4,000 women are killed by their partners each year in the U.S,” the DVSSP website states. “Domestic violence is about power and control.”
According to Young, one in four women and one in every seven men will experience domestic violence in the United States. Moreover, according to DVSSP’s website, domestic violence is the single major cause of injury to women, and 30% of female homicide victims are killed by their husbands or boyfriends.
Domestic violence includes one or more forms of coercive control, such as physical, emotional, sexual and economic abuse.
“It might not necessarily be just a physical abuse because there’s emotional abuse, financial abuse,” Young said. “Somebody who’s just getting verbally abused, being put down all the time, might think, ‘OK, they’re not hitting me, so it’s not really abuse’ but it is. If you get put down and put down and put down, that is abuse.”
According to Cheryl McCready, satellite office coordinator, the number of cases in Greene County have been consistent over the years. McCready has been with DVSSP for 20 years.
“We generally have 20 to 25 new clients every month, some of those are victims, some are significant others. We end up with a ballpark of 260 clients every year and, in Greene County, we have around 100 Protection from Abuse Orders each year,” she said. “Our statistics are about the same as long as I’ve been here.”
McCready said the community is very supportive with DVSSP’s work, especially during October, when volunteers help decorate the area.
“You will see Greene County turn purple all around the streets. Greene County really does go above and beyond for Cheryl,” Young said.
However, McCready and Young believe there is still more work to be done.
There have been fatalities related to domestic violence in Greene County and, according to DVSSP, cases in which children who grow up in homes where domestic violence exits repeat their parent’s pattern of behavior, becoming either abusers or victims themselves. Because of that, education is among the goals of DVSSP, which promotes awareness about the issue from Head Start to high school.
Around October, the organization will be working hard to spread the word about its work with events going on in the three counties it serves.
On Sunday, Sept. 22, Christian Klay Winery, in Chalkhill, will host the Laurel Highlands Harvest Festival from noon to 5 p.m. to benefit DVSSP. On Wednesday, Oct. 16, the nonprofit’s 14th annual Peace Begins at Home Dinner takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. at Hilton Garden Inn Southpointe in Canonsburg. Tickets cost $60 per person and can be purchased by calling (724) 223-5481.
In Greene County, streets will turn purple and the First Federal Savings and Loan window will have two displays: One about the PeaceFromDV Walk from Sept. 20 through 30 and another about Domestic Violence Awareness Month from Oct. 4 through 18. Moreover, Empty Seat at the Table displays will be up at Waynesburg University, Bowlby and Flenniken libraries and the Greene County Courthouse as a reminder of those who lost their lives due to domestic violence.
You can learn more about Domestic Violence Services of Southwestern Pennsylvania at www.peacefromdv.org.