How the hue became associated with the movement to end domestic violence

Ever wonder how a cause chooses what color to make it’s signature shade? It’s not just an arbitrary decision, believe it or not. For domestic violence, the color of choice is purple, which got its roots before domestic violence was even a movement people acknowledged.

“The women’s suffrage movement utilized purple, white and gold in the early 1900s as those were the colors of the National Women’s Party,” says Rose M. Garrity, board president of National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) and long-time movement member. “The colors started over in England and symbolized purity, hope and loyalty.”

On July 9, 1978, nearly 100,000 advocates marched on the capitol in Washington, D.C. in support of equal rights. Many of them wore lavender.

“Battered women chose purple as an evolution of the lavender from decades past,” Garrity says. “It’s seen as a color of royalty and is already associated with females anyway.”

The natural progression has only solidified the hue’s presence among domestic violence shelters and advocacy organizations. “Today I believe the purple to be quickly recognizable. There’s a lot of use of the color in the movement and people know what it means,” she says. “The NCADV has always used purple in its marketing and will continue to do so.”

Of course, that’s not all the movement has in store.

“As the battered women’s movement grew, we designated October as DV awareness month where we shine a purple light to show support of DV survivors,” Garrity explains.

And the awareness efforts such as these appear to be working. “In 60s and 70s during the women’s movement, nobody had ever heard of battered women abuse shelters,” she says. “Abuse wasn’t anything new, but nothing had been done to rise against it. Many, many women were living in fear in their own homes.”

Early shelters weren’t what they are today, says Garrity. “It was sort of like an underground railroad in the 60s and 70s. We would move battered women from place to place. But that got a bad reputation because it was considered illegal.”

Finally, government funding came through in the 70s and shelters started opening. “Today we have over 3,000 shelters in country,” she says. You can locate the ones nearest you

But there’s always work still to do. Interested in reading more about the first domestic violence shelters and what still needs to be done? Check out “I Helped Open One of the First Women’s Shelters.”

March 30, 2016

By domesticshelters.or