This year’s Purple Light Nights campaign was launched in Abbotsford on Friday to bring awareness to the issue of domestic violence.
The launch was held outside of the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association office on Montrose Avenue, with a goal of encouraging individuals, groups and businesses to hang purple lights throughout October.
“Purple is the symbol of courage, survival and honour, and has come to symbolize the fight to end women abuse,” said Michele Giordano, chair of the Violence Against Women in Relationships (VAWIR) committee.
She said the campaign is held annually to acknowledge the existence of domestic abuse, to stand in solidarity with victims, and to raise the profile of community resources.
Giordano said more than 50 Abbotsford businesses have hung purple lights in support of the campaign.
As well, VAWIR has created a “travelling exhibit” of life-sized red wooden silhouettes, each representing a person killed by a partner. Some of these were on display at the launch event.
“Violence impacts everyone; it is not just a women’s problem. Rather, it is the whole community that experiences the devastating impact of domestic violence,” Giordano said.
Also speaking at the event, Mayor Henry Braun cited statistics indicating that 25 per cent of all violent crimes reported to police involve family violence, and 70 per cent of the victims are girls and women.
“We’re here to say that domestic violence has no place in our community,” he said.
Braun said domestic abuse remains one of the most under-reported crimes, although the focused work of the Abbotsford Police Department’s domestic violence unit has resulted in a high rate of such crimes being reported locally.
However, he said shelter availability and affordable housing for individuals trying to escape an abusive relationship remains one of the biggest challenges.
Abbotsford Police Insp. Tom Chesley agreed that housing is a challenge.
“There are still so many victims of domestic violence that really feel they are just so stuck where they are, because there is no place for them to go,” he said.
“Until that barrier gets crossed, I think we’ve got this continuing uphill battle, and it’s the community that’s going to help us solve that battle.”
Also speaking at the event were Abbotsford South MLA Darryl Plecas, and Kathleen and Alexander Kasatkin, whose daughter Kim was killed in November 2016 in Peru. Her common-law partner has been charged with her murder, but has not yet gone to trial.
Also at the event, hip hop artist Saint Soldier and singer Rozsa released a new song, called Dark Shades, which is about domestic violence.
Businesses or individuals can purchase a string of purple lights for $20 at Blackwood Building Supplies (33050 South Fraser Way).