BY RAEGAN NEUFELD
In honor of October’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Options Domestic and Sexual Violence Services partnered with downtown businesses in Hays to bring awareness to the victims and survivors of domestic violence through purple lights.
Options is a service for victims of not only domestic violence, but also sexual assault, stalking, dating violence, and human trafficking. The organization has locations in both Hays and Colby.
This year, Options provided purple lights to the hair salons in Hays to display in their windows. Salons were chosen specifically because of a program called Cut It Out. Cut It Out helps train hairdressers to recognize the signs of abuse in clients.
“That’s an intimate relationship,” Options Director of Development Dawn Gabel said. “People are likely to share when getting their hair done. Sometimes when talking about their days, things come out during the conversation. Beauticians and barbers need to know what to do in that situation in order to help.”
Gabel also explained that the lights in the windows are a way for salons to tell clients that they are in a safe place.
This was the first year that the window displays were organized. The salons that took part included Park Avenue Salon, Hays Academy of Hair Design, Brick House Day Spa, J Studio, Emerald Image, Desbien Design, Salon Ten O Seven, and Salon MUAH. Salon Centric provided gift baskets for the participants.
Along with the window displays, Options also helped organize the annual Purple Light Nights in Hays, which is a national campaign.
Options Executive Director Jennifer Hecker spoke about what the purpose of the purple lights is.
“Purple is the color of Domestic Violence Awareness Month,” she explained. “The idea behind Purple Light Nights is to, as a community, light the town purple in solidarity against domestic violence.”
Hecker also said that they are hoping this act lets the silenced victims know that they are not alone and that domestic violence will not be tolerated in the community.
The tree in the Downtown Plaza is now lit up with purple string lights, which were put up by employees of Astra Bank, but Options would like to see individuals in the community take part as well.
“People are encouraged to decorate their home with purple lights. So if anyone would like a purple light bulb for their porch, just contact Options,” Gabel said.
The tree lighting took place on Thursday night. Hecker and Gabel both spoke at the beginning of the ceremony, as did Kaiti Dinges, the executive director of Jana’s Campaign.
Hecker in particular spoke about ways to help survivors heal.
“We’re asking all the wrong questions,” she said.
According to Hecker, the questions that survivors are commonly asked tend to place blame on them, not the abusers. Questions such as, “if it was so bad, why didn’t they leave?” Or, “If it was so bad, why did they go back?”
“We don’t do that to robbery victims,” she pointed out.
Hecker left her audience with a challenge.
“As a community, we can definitely do something about that by learning to ask the right questions. Bring that advocacy to the next level. Questions that are rooted in love and kindness are the questions that will be answered and really create safety and long-term healing for survivors,” Hecker said. “That is how we change the conversation in this country. By changing the conversation, we can change the trajectory of the victims’ lives and bring an end to domestic violence in this country.”