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October marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Anyone visiting the Franklin County Courthouse this month will have noticed the “purple people,” just feet away from the main entrance. These faceless wooden cutouts bring to mind one of humanity’s greatest sources of suffering – domestic violence.

The “purple people” represent a family, Katernia Coley-Coffey explained. “It shows that domestic violence affects everyone,” she said.

The family cutout reappears each October as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. While people might be “aware” of domestic violence, “we don’t like to think it could happen to us,” Cole-Coffey said. “(We think) ‘That doesn’t happen to my friends,’ or ‘That’s not in my community,’ or ‘My family member wouldn’t do that.’ Sometimes we like to think it doesn’t happen.”

But it does.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women and one in four men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. On a typical day, domestic violence hotlines receive approximately 21,000 calls, NCADV asserts.

Other statistics hit a little closer to home – numbers that represent people served by Safeplace domestic violence program from January-July 2016. Those include 240 victims served; 18 batterers served in Safeplace’s PEACE Program, the court-ordered program for abusers; 97 helpline calls and 263 helpline referrals; and 2,219 children who received prevention education in schools across Franklin County. When it comes to domestic violence, as the saying goes, knowledge is power. And that’s what Domestic Violence Awareness Month is all about.

“The person you would probably least expect it to be happening to – it’s probably happening to,” Cole-Coffey said.

Safeplace serves Lauderdale, Lawrence, Marion, Winston and Colbert counties, in addition to Franklin. The local domestic violence coalition includes Cole-Coffey, district attorney Joey Rushing, members of the Department of Human Resources and others.

Bill Cheatham and Loretta Sikes of the courthouse maintenance crew set out the “purple people” each year. The silent but visible reminder, Coley-Coffey hopes, will make people more aware of the incidence of domestic violence and encourage those who are facing domestic violence to seek help. “No one should live in an environment where there is no peace.”

To reach Safeplace’s 24-hour helpline, call 256-767-6210 or 1-800-550-9215. Safeplace is online at For additional information on domestic violence and other help resources, try visiting,, or