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Turning purple to raise awareness

Candlelight vigil shines a light on domestic abuse

The senseless murders of four female members of Montreal's Shafia family in 2009 show how devastating domestic abuse can be.

It's a dark issue that the New Westminster community coordination for women's safety wants to shine a light on with the Purple Light Nights campaign, where local businesses and residents buy strings of purple lights to hang in their windows to raise awareness about the thousands of women and children who endure the horrors of domestic violence.

The New Westminster community coordination for women's safety is holding a candlelight vigil this Monday night at city hall at 7 p.m. to launch Prevention of Violence Against Women Week.

The event will start inside the hall chambers, where the mayor will proclaim the week, said Roshni Vedamanikam, a community coordinator with the community group.

Gatherers will then go outside for the vigil, which will go for about 20 minutes, Vedamanikam said.

"On our last couple of years, people have asked 'Is there an actual event?'" Vedamanikam said, explaining why they are holding a candlelight vigil for the first time this year. "There hasn't been. Part of it was we were still getting the whole idea going. So we thought it would be nice to actually have an event that marks the start of the week."

The purple light campaign runs from April 15 to 28.

"One in four women are impacted at some point in their lives by physical or sexual or emotional abuse. One in four women, that's a very high stat," Vedamanikam said. "The more people are aware of the issue, they realize the signifi-cance of it, and the importance of it."

Purple Light Nights started in Covington, Washington in 2007 with the message that "domestic violence has no place in our community."

According to the Statistics Canada, 100,000 women in the province experienced violence by a partner between 1999 and 2004, and almost half of these women have children.

Any businesses or residents wanting to participate can purchase a string of lights for $20 or a light bulb for $1 by calling Roshni at 604-521-1888.