Red Dress Project brings awareness to domestic violence

A COC student walks by seven red dresses hanging near the flagpole on campus during last year's display. Katharine Lotze/Signal file photo

Seven red dresses are making their way around the Santa Clarita Valley.

Each one represents the seven lives lost to domestic violence in the area and to raise awareness of the issue in the community.

One of the seven dresses represents a young woman who died at the hands of her abuser when adequate transitional housing to protect her could not be found.

The “Red Dress Project,” a joint effort by the Zonta Club of Santa Clarita, the Domestic Violence Center of Santa Clarita Valley, the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station and the city of Santa Clarita, is currently on display and will continue until Dec. 10.

The dresses’ red color is meant to symbolize the intimacy and blood of domestic abuse.

For two weeks the seven dresses are hung up in trees in various locations throughout the city, where they are exposed to the weather and animated in the wind to represent the lives lost.

“We want the community to understand that this is a community issue, not just a woman’s issue or a family issue,” said Linda Davies, executive director of the Domestic Violence Center of Santa Clarita Valley.  “It’s about raising awareness, which is so important.”

According to Davies, the project was inspired by a similar display of red dresses in Canada that represented the more than 1,000 Aboriginal women that were murdered or went missing in the last 30 years.

Local representatives chose to bring the project to the valley last year after six women lost their lives because of domestic violence.

“The first year it was inspired by the fact that there had been a lot of domestic violence related homicide deaths in 2015-16,” she said.  “We decided to do it based on these women who have lost their lives here.”

This year there is a seventh dress on display representing a young woman who stayed at the domestic violence shelter, but later died at the hands of her abuser when she could not find transitional housing.

Davies said the young woman successfully finished the shelter’s program and had a five-year restraining order against her abuser, but could not find a place to stay near her work.

“We could not get her into a house because there was nothing open for singles at the time,” she said.  “That seventh dress is in honor of her.”

With the project, Davies and others hope to share tips and information to understand domestic violence, to stop instances of domestic violence in safe ways and to teach community members to become “an up-stander not a bystander.”

“The dresses are very moving for people,” Davies said.  “Women need to know that they have rights and that the law can protect them.”

The Red Dress Project already displayed at the Old Town Newhall Farmers Market, Santa Clarita Valley Court House, KHTS Studio on Main Street and College of the Canyons’ honor Grove.  Future display locations and times include:

  • Veterans Historical Plaza— Dec. 2, from noon to 2 p.m., and Dec. 3, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Valencia Library/Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station — Dec. 5, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Santa Clarita Valley Court House — Dec. 6, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Santa Clarita Aquatic Center/Skate Park – Dec. 7, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • City Hall – Dec. 8, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • West Ranch High School – Dec. 9, from 9:45 a.m. to 11 a.m.
  • Old Town Newhall Farmers Market – Dec. 10 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

For those experiencing domestic violence, the Domestic Violence Center of Santa Clarita Valley has a hotline number that runs 24 hours a day at 661-259-4357.  The center also has an office in Newhall where individuals can speak with representatives at 661-259-8175.

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On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_

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