By Collin Veenstra
For the DOVE Project
Vashon’s uptown district will glow purple for its third October in a row, recognizing the DOVE Project’s “We Believe Survivors” campaign for Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM).
DOVE, Vashon’s domestic and sexual violence advocacy agency, has collaborated with more than 50 island businesses to raise awareness and share support for survivors of domestic violence through stringing purple lights and “We Believe Survivors” signs in Uptown window fronts.
“This is our third year working with businesses to show our support for survivors and we are so appreciative of this community allyship,” said DOVE Executive Director Heidi Jackson. “To drive through uptown and see so many lights and messages of support is a powerful feeling — it shows our community members who have been impacted by domestic violence that Vashon is with them.”
Given the isolation and many tensions of this past year, these signs of support have extra meaning for some this year.
“It has been a difficult time for us all through COVID,” said DOVE Program Director Tracy McLaren. “The isolation and inability to gather physically as a community has taken a big toll on us all, and projects like this help to give a little Vashon love back to the island. With the increase in domestic violence nationwide over the pandemic, this support is very needed.”
As of 2018, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reported more than 20,000 phone calls were placed to domestic violence hotlines across the United States on a typical day. Researchers with Miami University found an 8.1% increase in domestic violence reports early in the pandemic, which many see as the outcome of increased stressors and scarce resources due to COVID.
Over the pandemic, DOVE advocates have seen an increase in calls from people living off-island whose local agencies are struggling to support the volume of calls they are receiving.
“The issues remain the same as pre-COVID in terms of need for affordable and safe housing as well as legal services for DV and family law issues. What we did notice however is a change in people reaching out in that more folks from off-island were reaching out than ever before,” said Nyn Grey, DOVE Community Advocate. “Normally pre-Covid, the process would have been to refer off-island individuals to a DV agency in their area, but DV agencies were (and remain) so saturated that folks aren’t reaching off-island advocates for intakes as quickly as they can access us at DOVE.”
The process of providing resources and referrals has shifted for DOVE advocates, Grey added.
“In the meantime, we end up doing a lot of ‘trauma triage’ and safety planning, validation and deep listening while off islanders are waiting to connect with their local agency…. In addition, the reality is that many survivors are homeless right now and therefore don’t even have a ‘location that they can point to… so we do what we can,” she said.
For many local groups offering their storefronts to this campaign, participating in Domestic Violence Awareness Month through the Purple Lights Campaign is a tradition they are proud to support.
“Communities are the strongest when we advocate for each other. Every voice counts,” said Sara Swenson from AJ’s Espresso, a participant in this year’s campaign.
In addition to the Purple Lights Campaign, DOVE has organized a few more ways that islanders can recognize DVAM.
On Friday, Oct. 1, the DOVE office participated in Vashon’s First Friday art walk, with a collection of pieces from local artists that reflect DOVE’s mission — Dignity, Opportunity, Voice, and Empowerment — with featured artists Hope Black, Lorijo Daniels, Iota Paetkau, Cyra Jane, and others.
On Saturday, Oct. 9, the DOVE board will kickoff a virtual art auction, where people can bid on a variety of works from artists in support of DOVE. Additional events include a training session on Oct. 21 available to anyone interested in learning about community advocacy and a limited-capacity altar-making workshop for survivors on Oct. 29.
“Vashon is an island that truly shows up for one another,” said DOVE therapist Rashaun Renggli. “The community and financial support and person-to-person awareness raising we see throughout the year is truly incredible. We are so thankful for the community’s commitment to helping us prevent domestic violence and support survivors.”
To learn more about DOVE services and programming,, or find out ways to get involved, visit vashondoveproject.org.
— Collin Veenstra (they/them) is a DOVE Prevention Specialist