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Organizers out to Paint Phoenix Purple to combat domestic violence

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PHOENIX — For a woman visiting a restaurant bathroom, it may be a purple card outlining how to escape an abusive relationship.

For a high school student, it may be a purple screensaver listing the Arizona Shelter Hotline for those in need of a safe environment.

For a child visiting the library, it may be a purple bookmark urging him to speak to a teacher if he’s experiencing violence at home.

To mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, organizers of Paint Phoenix Purple are out to raise awareness about the problem wherever people may need the information. All in shades of purple, the color adopted by advocates of domestic violence victims.

“The city as a whole is going to stand up and say, ‘We are here. We hear you. Please don’t become a victim. And if you are suffering from domestic violence, you have a way out,’” said Lt. Adrian Ruiz of the Phoenix Police Department’s Violent Crimes Bureau.

The project is a collaboration of the city of Phoenix, the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the O’Connor House.

Organizers are partnering with businesses and schools to get the message out. Activities include handing out purple bracelets and ribbons, placing information cards in women’s restrooms, putting magnets on police, fire and maintenance vehicles and adding posters to garbage trucks.

City water bills will be purple this month, and libraries will hand out special bookmarks to kids.

Restaurants and bars can get involved by using purple straws and napkins and placing information cards in women’s restrooms – where a woman’s abuser may not be monitoring her.

Organizers say the scale of the problem in the Arizona was a call for action. There are 50,000 domestic violence calls to 911 every year in Phoenix, second only to calls for home alarms. One in four women in Arizona is a victim of domestic violence, as is one in five teens and one in 12 men, according to the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

“I think there has been a lot of internal stress caused by tremendous growth of the city and a tremendous downturn in the economy,” said Kim Sterling, co-chair of the O’Connor House’s Avon Program for Women and Justice. “Domestic violence has just exploded.”

She said the problem is endemic, not just in Arizona but in society as a whole.

“There are many reasons,” Sterling said. “Poor economy, the family network has fallen to pieces, and I think we are beginning to see some signs of this in younger children who have no ability to understand what is the right way to be living their lives.”

The campaign, which kicks off a five-year plan to end domestic violence, positions the Phoenix as a national leader, said Tamyra Spendley, the city’s special projects coordinator.

“Now other places are saying, ‘Great! Let’s paint Pinal County purple,’” she said.

Ultimately, the goal is to make domestic violence something the community won’t tolerate, organizers said.

“When you see somebody littering or hear about somebody driving drunk, you feel outraged,” said Christa Steiner of the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “We really want domestic violence to be in that category.”