You may not already know that October is Domestic Violence/Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) Awareness Month and that purple is the official color for IPV awareness. You may also not know that across America, about 20 people per minute suffer some form of IPV. Some studies report that over 25% of straight women and about 10% of straight men will suffer IPV this year and 1 in every 15 children will witness IPV in their homes. Shocking, right? But what’s even more shocking is that for LGBTQ folks, those numbers are two to three times higher.
A full 20% of gay men experience IPV each year. That’s twice as often as their straight counterparts. Conservative estimates are that 40% of transgender or gender-non-conforming people experience IPV each year. More than any other people in our society.
All of those statistics mean that millions of our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family members are suffering every year. For some, the abuse will escalate into murder (80% of the women killed in Louisiana every year are killed by a current or former romantic partner). For some, the abuse will leave noticeable physical changes. But for many more, the lasting impact of the abuse will be unseen. The fear, shame, trauma, and stress the survivors of IPV endure is no less real and just as lasting. But it can leave survivors feeling confused, isolated, and voiceless. How do you tell someone about your abuse? It’s a private, embarrassing, painful thing. Why would you talk about that? Can you even talk about that?
As an attorney for LGBTQ adult and child survivors of IPV I talk about it. I talk about it a lot. I try to amplify my clients’ voices when they feel voiceless and I try to leverage my own place of privilege to support, protect, and advocate for my clients. So I decided to dye my hair purple. I decided that I wanted to take on the responsibility of talking about IPV.
Because I can.
So every time someone makes a comment about my hair – and it happens a lot – I tell them why I have purple hair. I tell them some statistics about IPV or I share with them some of my experiences, and I encourage them to talk to other people about IPV, too. To tell their friends at the salon about this great shade of smoky purple, and how there are resources like free cell phones if anyone ever needs to flee an abusive home. To tell their teenage son they saw a guy in a suit and a tie and lavender hair so it’s ok to be different, but it’s never ok to express emotions with violence. To tell their mom that they want to go to law school because lawyers can be cool, but that they want to move back home first because of what happened on campus.
I’m not saying we all need to dye our hair purple. But if you can, I encourage you to all put yourself out there for others around you. Intimate partner violence is a pervasive and deadly force in our society. But it thrives on being hidden and on survivors being unseen and unheard. For the rest of October (and the rest of your life) I urge you to open your ears, your eyes, and your hearts. Be an advocate, be an ally, be a friend and help put an end to intimate partner violence in our communities.
Because we can.
If you or someone you know needs assistance in dealing with intimate partner violence you can contact our offices or The New Orleans Family Justice Center 701 Loyola Ave., N.O.LA 70113 (504) 592-4005 to connect with statewide resources.
photo: brandt vicknair\brandtimages.com | styling: madeline brown\politesocietynola.com