Lights shine on for domestic violence victims

By: Heather Beyer

In observance of Domestic Violence Awareness month and to remember the victims who lost their lives as a result of domestic violence, the Battered Women’s Shelter of Summit and Medina Counties is conducting two events this month: Purple Light Nights and Cut It Out.

Purple Light Nights was first launched in Washington in Oct. 2007 by The Covington Domestic Violence Task Force.

“Purple is the color of domestic violence,” said Battered Women’s Shelter Outreach Coordinator Brittany Paliswat. “The concept of it is to put out purple lighting in your community to help raise awareness of domestic violence and all of these issues and stories that surround it.”

Purple Light Nights locations include the Wadsworth Gazebo, the Brunswick Clock Tower, Summit Mall in Fairlawn, the Copley Gazebo, the City of Medina’s Tree on the Square, Tallmadge’s Tree on the Circle, Norton’s Columbia Woods Park Gazebo and the Downtown Akron Beacon Journal Clock Tower.

Students and community members can support the Purple Lights awareness campaign by wearing the color purple once a week or by visiting one of the locations displaying purple lights.

Summit Mall in Fairlawn is kicking off the campaign this Friday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the “Girls Night Out Event.”

“Everything will be themed purple and hopefully the shops will get involved and give discounts for people who will buy something purple,” Paliswat said. The Summit Mall location will offer massage booths, facials and other spa-style services to pamper women. Lights will be displayed on the fountain in front of the mall.

“Last Year the top Key Bank Tower in downtown Cleveland was lit up with purple lights. It is a great and low-cost thing to do to show your support. I really wanted to outreach to the other communities, not just downtown Akron,” Paliswat said. She thinks that those living in the larger counties can often overlook the problem of domestic violence in smaller communities.

“It was nice to spread out and go into Norton, Wadsworth and Tallmadge that may not come into downtown Akron as often. We do have purple lights on the Downtown Akron Beacon Journal Clock Tower; that is our high rise this year,” Paliswat said.

According to Paliswat, one of four women is a victim of domestic violence. The rate among men is one of 15. According to the FBI, it takes a woman an average of seven times to leave her abuser. Domestic violence occurs in every neighborhood and has devastating effects.

Another program to be held this month by BWS is Cut It Out. Endorsed by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Cut It Out is a national program sponsored by the Salons Against Domestic Violence Abuse Fund that educates salon professionals on domestic violence and how to safely refer their clients to the appropriate resources that can assist them.

“A lot of people don’t realize that there is a huge safety link to salon professionals,” Paliswat said.  “When survivors of domestic violence are in this relationship, a lot of times, the only place they are allowed to go by themselves is to a salon. What better place and people should we be talking to?”

The goal is to educate salon professionals on how to recognize the warning signs of domestic violence and how to respond if they encounter a situation of domestic violence.

“We don’t want a victim of domestic violence to go to somebody [at a salon] and them not know where to refer them, not know how to get them help. That is a horrible feeling not to be able to give somebody help,” Paliswat said.

The educational event will take place on Oct. 17 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the American Red Cross Building, located at 501 W. Market Street in Akron. The Gerber Akron Beauty School and the Gavin Scott Salon & Spa will partner with the shelter to host the event.

In 2010, the Battered Women’s Shelter of Summit and Medina Counties provided services to over 10,000 individuals and families. According to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Ohio law enforcement agencies reported more than 70,000 domestic dispute calls, about 40,200 of which resulted in domestic violence or related charges in 2010.

Paliswat also talked about an often overlooked aspect of domestic violence. Many times, abusers will threaten to harm the loved ones of their victims, including pets.

“A lot of abusers say they will kill the cat or family pet if [the victim] tries to leave,” Paliswat said.

“In the past we weren’t able to accommodate those women, and a lot of women wouldn’t want to leave their animals. We had a young lady who went through our program and we were able to get her help in regards to finding a location or agency that was willing to temporarily house her animal.  We have a lot of success stories. We have a lot of survivors who really truly are dedicated to gaining that independence,” Paliswat said.

The Battered Women’s Shelter’s provides protective shelter, crisis intervention, education, case management, support and referrals to victims of domestic violence. If a domestic violence victim is in need of emergency shelter, she can call the 24-hour hotline for Summit County at (888) 395-4357.