In an effort to raise money for the Child & Family Center’s domestic violence program, the Purple Palooza 5k walk on Saturday raised more than $50,000.
The walk had approximately 200 participants, including adults, kids and even pets. The event comes amid Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which aims to put a spotlight on abuse and its survivors.
Before participants began their trek, a speech was given by domestic violence survivor Evelia Scanlon, who shared her story and her journey to recovery. Scanlon currently works as a facilitator for the Child & Family Center’s domestic violence program.
“I was a victim. I’m now empowered,” said Scanlon. “I am a woman who’s gone through domestic violence twice. The first one was violent and I almost died, then I came back.”
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men. Scanlon and the representatives of the Child & Family Center said the average number of times it takes for someone to escape an abusive relationship is seven.
While Scanlon was able to survive her first abusive marriage, she unfortunately became involved in a second one.
“They say it takes you seven times to get out of a relationship, but they didn’t say you ended up in another relationship,” said Scanlon. “I took the classes, I got the information, but I thought ‘Hey, it was them. It was never me.’ That’s not true. There’s a lot of stuff in here that needs to be taken care of and childhood challenges has to do with what you believe about yourself.”
Scanlon said that while she learned how to detect and identify red flags of a physically abusive relationship, her second marriage – which she said was more psychologically and emotionally abusive – was harder to detect. She thought her new husband was nice and provided for her, but he eventually broke her down on a spiritual level.
“It was more psychological, biblical, spiritual that broke me down on that one. It was really hard because I was spiritually broken. When you’re spiritually broken, you think about suicide. You think that you don’t care, you don’t matter, it’s not important,” said Scanlon. “You’re willing to give it all up. I had a little voice in my head… [that] kept saying you couldn’t leave your kids to that guy. You don’t leave your kids to your ‘precious husband.’”
Scanlon said she was able to survive this relationship as well and entered a new program, where she began to unlearn many of the coping mechanisms that allowed her to survive all those years, a process she described as “rerecording a new tape” over an old one.
By doing so, she was able to become a facilitator for the Child & Family Center, helping victims of abuse the same way she was helped. In a twist of fate, she also became a facilitator for perpetrators of domestic violence.
“Now, who would imagine that a survivor would turn around, get in a room with a bunch of men – sorry, men, not that you’re all aggressive because they’re not – and help them relearn how to treat other people,” said Scanlon. “Because men and women that end up in these classes are really children of domestic violence. They came from a home [where] they saw abuse, they saw their parents hurt each other, and they learned to do the same.”
Oriana John, participant in the walk, a volunteer at the Child & Family Center and a survivor of domestic abuse, said hearing these stories and having a discussion, although difficult, is crucial.
“I do love these stories because it really touches people, to hear what happened and to see where they’re at, and to know how the Child & Family Center’s domestic violence program helped them to be able to get in front of us and tell their story,” said John. “For me, it was hard initially, but it’s easier now. It gets easier. It’s never completely easy, because you have flashbacks and you get emotional, but you also realize, ‘I can share this and let others know what they can do, what the signs are.’”
Leah Parker, another walker and employee of the domestic violence program, corroborated John’s sentiments.
“We had a lot of families here, which means they’re willing to have those conversations and I think that was part that I really took away today: not only is it a fun, colorful event, but the agency provides so many activities for families to do together that encourage those conversations,” said Parker.
The color purple permeated the event, with walkers wearing purple, purple signs and balloons, and purple chalk for people to put in their hand and blow, creating a purple cloud, which provided for a good photo opportunity.
As for its symbolism, Parker said it derives from the Purple Heart award – given to soldiers wounded or killed in combat.
“Our survivors are wounded physically, emotionally, mentally, and the purple represents courage, strength, resiliency and empowerment,” said Parker. “We want that message to reign above everything else. We don’t want it to be a discussion just about the terrors of domestic violence, but the empowerment that comes through it, too.”