This is part two in a series on Covington’s battle against domestic violence
Victoria Throm isn’t unfamiliar with the issue of domestic violence. She’s a survivor of two different abusive relationships, one where she had to escape the sharp edge of a knife.
She moved to Covington in hopes of a new life and took a job with the city to work in human services. Years later she started a somber but moving tradition in the city, Purple Light Nights.
The event is an annual way to raise awareness for victims and survivors of domestic violence during October, which is national Domestic Violence Awareness month. Throm started this event after sharing her own story about domestic violence.
“When I moved to Covington part of it was to get away from the past, and I took the job there. In human services part of that is working with victims,” Throm said. “I didn’t share my story for a couple of years. And then in about 2003, I decided to, I was ready. I was more into my healing and recovery, so I was ready to do that.”
Throm said in her first marriage the abuse wasn’t physical initially. She had three children and her spouse used verbal and emotional abuse against her.
“I started to get secure and understand more what was going on,” she said. “And what happens typically, and this is very classic, is with power and control when the victim gets stronger, then the abuser … I don’t know they don’t like losing control … so that’s when it gets more violent.”
That’s also when it became physically violent for Throm. She got away from the situation and started to rebuild her life. She remarried a few years later but found out she was in too familiar a relationship.
“That was a horrendous relationship,” Throm said. “But it ended pretty quickly because at that point I was getting smarter. It was more physically violent and emotionally (abusive).”
Her spouse attempted to attack her with a knife, but Throm was able to escape. She packed up her belongings and moved her life away from her past marriages into Covington.
More than a survivor
While working for the city Throm became a trained advocate for victims and help those who came to the Covington Police Department seeking help.
Throm formed a domestic violence task force in Covington while working for the city, which she is now retired from. The task force was formed in 2003 and became a 501-C3 nonprofit in 2004.
“I really wanted our task force to be different,” Throm said. “There were a lot of task forces in King County and other cities, when we started there was eight of them and we kind of had a coalition. Now there are only two, one in Federal Way and one in Covington. And I wanted ours to not just sit around and make policies and rules, that’s important … but I wanted it to be more direct services to victims.”
One of those ways was coming up with an event to honor victims and survivors.
“That’s when I came up with the idea for (Purple Light Night) because purple is the symbolic color for domestic violence,” Throm said.
The idea was to have residents put a purple light bulb in their patio lights in support of victims and survivors.
Tiny purple lights grew into a large glow when local businesses started sponsoring strings of purple lights into the city’s trees, which grew to the county and then across the nation.
“It grew out from Covington into the national and international range,” Throm said. “About 32 states have a city or county that does an event, and in Canada. British Columbia, Alberta and Brunswick do it. It grew like crazy, it’s spreading all over.”
Past Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna proudly displayed purple lights at his Olympia office and challenged other state attorney generals to follow suit. Guam’s Attorney General met that challenge.
“In Guam, they gave 18 village purple light bulbs and it was pretty amazing,” Throm said. “So it’s grown into an international event.”
Lightbulbs can be purchased at Covington City Hall
Anyone who chooses to shine a light on domestic violence can do so by putting them in their outdoor lighting to help create conversation, or choose a neighborhood tree or sponsor a city tree. The purpose is to honor victims who have lost their lives while giving a guiding light still living with abuse.
This is the 10th year the City of Covington and the Covington Rotary Club has worked together with Throm’s Covington Domestic Violence Task Force to host a Purple Light Night event. It’s held on the last Saturday of September each year. There is an honor walk where event-goers can earn a free shirt. The walkers carry big signs on the route in support of victims and the course ends at a big barbecue at New Life Church.
“We also have a contest for who’s the most spirited,” Throm said. “So people come dressed in costumes and purple tutus … we give a $50 gift certificate for the most spirited individual and $100 to the most spirited group.”
The local Kiwanis club brings a dessert to share, and this year Mora Icecream will give away free icecream. Throm’s task force will have a table with resources for victims or those who wish to help. DAWN, the Kent-based victims’ advocacy group, will also be there to provide educational material and to collect donations.
“It’s a heavy subject so we try to make this a way to make people aware this is an issue and that domestic violence does not have a place in our community,” Throm said. “And to give survivors a place to be honored and walk with their families.”
Those walking along the route or driving past will also notice black silhouettes standing around Covington. Each one represents someone who was a victim of domestic violence and didn’t survive. Each silhouette will include a plaque with the name of a victim and a piece of their story.
Since Throm started the task force its served over 130 clients and has provided over 500 bed nights to those seeking emergency shelter. The task force has also spent over $24,000 on services.
“I know we are a small organization, pretty grassroots, so when I look at those numbers they seem to me… if you can change one life that’s great but we’ve changed hundreds. That’s wonderous,” she said.
Anyone who wants to participate in the Purple Light Night walk can register online at crowdrise.com/2019pln5k or at 5 p.m. on the day of the event. Cost is $15 for individuals or $30 for a family of three or more. The event will begin at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 28, at 16901 SE 272nd Street, Covington.