Op-Ed

Expand #MeToo with #WeWillHelp

Survivors of abuse, domestic violence participated in an October rally in downtown Lexington.
Survivors of abuse, domestic violence participated in an October rally in downtown Lexington.

A few weeks ago, the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs hosted our 19th “Ending Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Conference” in Lexington. But this time, it felt like we were at a tipping point.

Our conference began the same morning that a prominent national morning show host had been fired for sexual harassment. And it was just days before Time Magazine named the “#MeToo” movement as the 2017 person of the year, highlighting the women who have spoken up in social media and in workplaces about assault, harassment and domestic violence. They called them “The Silence Breakers.”

“Have you noticed the culture is changing?” asked Eileen Recktenwald, executive director of the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs, as we kicked off our event.

Yes, we had all noticed.

But speaking up and breaking the silence is only a first step.

We represent domestic-violence shelters and sexual-assault programs around the state, and we know the challenges that come after the silence is broken. Every day, we see women who have fled from terrible situations — sometimes with just their kids and the clothes on their back.

It’s a courageous, heroic decision. But then they have to find a place to live and they don’t have money for an apartment deposit. They don’t have clothes to wear to work the next day. They may no longer have access to the money they were going to use to buy their kids’ shoes.

This is where the Purple Purse Fund has made all the difference. This is an emergency fund, raised by private donations, that helps survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault rebuild their lives and land on their feet.

In October, Gov. Matt Bevin issued the Purple Purse Challenge, urging Kentuckians to support this vital emergency fund. We raised slightly more than $22,000 that month.

But every day the news reminds us that there are more and more women who are finally getting up the courage to speak up, stand up and walk away. We need to be ready to help them. This year, dozens of individuals and many companies contributed to the fund.

We are especially excited that WellCare of Kentucky, which contributed $5,000 to the Purple Purse fund in 2017, has already announced they will double their donation this year to $10,000.

2017 was the year that many women said #MeToo about sexual assault, harassment and violence. Let’s let 2018 be the year that many more say #WeWillHelp. Donate to the Purple Purse Fund at kcadv.org/donations.

Sherry Currens is executive director of the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

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