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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Purple lights shine outside College Park City Hall for Domestic Violence Awareness Month


City Hall is using purple lights as a part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. (Tom Hausman/The Diamondback)

Published 12:06 AM
When people pass by College Park City Hall at night throughout the month of October, they will see an unusual sight ­— purple lights shining around the building.
After driving past that scene, city officials hope people will do a quick online search to discover the lights are part of a larger campaign to raise awareness about domestic violence, Mayor Patrick Wojahn said.
The Purple Light Nights campaign began in 2007, when founder Victoria Throm launched it in Covington, Washington. The program has now grown to span across 32 states, four providences in Canada, and the territory of Guam, said Throm, who now serves as Purple Light Nights CEO.
"Purple is a symbolic color of domestic violence, so I thought of shining a purple light in everybody's front porch as a symbol to remember those that died, support the survivors and give hope to those still living with abuse," Throm said. "Each county and city kind of does their own format; we just ask that people maintain the integrity of the name and logo."
Areas participate through tree lighting, porch lighting, bridges or building lighting and 5k walks, Throm said. Congress recognizes October as National Domestic Violence Awareness month.
"What your county is doing is being very proactive, and I will not be surprised if more people, because of this, will come forward and ask for help," Throm said.
This is the first year the council is participating in the campaign, Wojahn said. After initially receiving information about the program, he proposed support for it in a council meeting, and that motion passed unanimously.
"I think it's a great idea. We certainly need to raise awareness about domestic violence," Wojahn said. "This is especially important given the murder-suicide that took place a couple weeks ago right here in College Park."
According to Wojahn, the council works closely with Prince George's County Police to make sure domestic violence victims are receiving treatment if needed. Some resources available to victims include social service agencies, non-profit agencies and county courthouses, which can assist victims with the legal side of things.
"This is something I would like us to keep on doing in years to come," Wojahn said. "This problem is not going to go away, and this is a fairly simple and easy thing that we can do to raise awareness and help combat domestic violence."
The Prince George's County Sheriff's Office has been very involved with the Purple Light Nights campaign, Throm said. Corporal Ricardo Dennis said that the office has been actively participating for three years.
The office first became involved because officers see many domestic abuse situations firsthand while responding to 911 calls, Dennis said.
"We'd like everyone to be able to shine a light either in their window or their porch light, to let the community know that we stand together as a community united against domestic violence," he added.
Every year, the office hosts various events during October, which are kicked off by a Purple Night Lights lighting ceremony. This year's lighting ceremony took place Oct. 3 at the Family Justice Center in Upper Marlboro, which opened in the county June 10.
Dennis said the center is a significant new addition to the fight against domestic violence because it offers a wide range of services for the victims.
"It's a place where anybody who is a victim of domestic violence can go to, and they have different advocates and resources … everything is in one location, including child care," he said.
Advocates from the sheriff's office work with counselors at the center, with a shared goal of making domestic violence victims as comfortable as possible, Dennis said.
"There are a lot of resources out here, and there are a lot of things that we can do, but if people don't speak up and people don't let us know that they need help, we can't help them," Dennis said. "We want to be able to help everyone who suffers from this."

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