Purple Mile provides healing, advocacy for those impacted by domestic violence

Pairs of purple sneakers, high heels and children’s shoes lined WSU sidewalks Saturday morning as over 100 domestic abuse survivors, families and advocates gathered to participate in the annual Purple Mile.

The Purple Mile, a march coordinated by the Wichita Family Crisis Center as part of Domestic Abuse Awareness Month, aims to bring awareness to domestic violence and honor victims while giving locals and domestic abuse survivors the opportunity to advocate for change, heal and find support in the community. 

The march began after a brief speech presented by Sedgwick County District Attorney Joshua Steward, Chief of the General Criminal Trial Division Shannon Wilson and WSUPD Sergeant Brad Elmore. Elmore leads a team that solely conducts domestic violence intervention and reduction efforts to combat rising domestic violence and underreporting rates.

“I know many of you are here because you have lost someone to domestic violence or maybe you’re a survivor,” Elmore said in his address to the audience. “I’m truly sorry that the Wichita Police Department was not there to stop this crime before it occurred, but that is our goal. And that’s what we try for every day; we try to get better.”

Participants then followed a pre-mapped route around campus, beginning at The Plaza of Heroines for a heavy moment of silence before wrapping around Hubbard Hall, the Ulrich Museum and concluding at the RSC. For many, the event served as a way to mourn and celebrate loved ones lost to domestic abuse. For others, it provided an opportunity to expand their advocacy and promote messages of accountability and compassion. 

Paulina Popejoy and Mary Stalts, both victims of domestic violence, are employed in domestic violence prevention/intervention work and used the march as a way to dismantle the stigma surrounding domestic violence.

“I really want the community, and people who are not currently in those situations (domestic abuse), to understand it’s not so simple to walk out the door.” Popejoy said. “(For those living with domestic abuse) you’re not alone. There’s support for you.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with domestic abuse, resources and help are available through the National Domestic Abuse Hotline (800-799-7233), the Wichita Family Crisis Center and/or Harbor House.