CARBONDALE — Every October, The Women’s Center hosts a number of special events that allow people to show their support for victims of domestic violence and their families, and to help spread the word about the broad array of services that the center provides to men and women throughout Southern Illinois.

These events are coordinated in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which evolved from a “Day of Unity” event first sponsored by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981.

It sought to provide a special time to mourn those who died because of domestic violence, celebrate those who survived and to connect people across the country who work to end violence.

By 1987, it had transitioned into an awareness month. Then, two years later, Congress passed a law officially designating October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

John Pfeifer, development specialist for The Women’s Center, said that building awareness is a year-round job. But the special events that take place in October enhance visibility for the nonprofit, and help reach people who hadn’t heard of the center and its services before, Pfeifer said. Hopefully, they never need them. But if they do, it can be comforting to know where to turn in an emergency for oneself or on behalf of a friend, family member or colleague, added Sarah Settles, a domestic violence transitional housing manager at the center.

Just as importantly, the events also offer an opportunity for victims of domestic violence, loved ones and the broader community to recognize those who have survived domestic violence, and those who have not. For instance, the “Clothesline Project” is an art empowerment project that allows victims of domestic violence to speak through their T-shirt designs.

The personalized shirts that hang on clotheslines come in five shades. White shirts are made in honor of someone who died as a result of violence. Yellow/beige shirts are for survivors. Red, pink or orange T-shirts are for survivors of sexual assault. Blue or green shirts are for survivors of child abuse or incest. And lavender or purple shirts are for those attacked because of their sexual orientation.

On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. One in four women and one in nine men experience severe intimate partner physical or sexual violence and/or stalking, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

That organization defines domestic violence as the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, threats and emotional abuse.

Here’s a rundown of the nine events The Women’s Center is sponsoring this month:

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Oct. 5: Registration for the “Runners Together” 5k walk/run at Giant City State Park this Saturday begins at 8 a.m. The run is at 9 a.m. It is open to men and women. Same-day race registration is $20. All proceeds will benefit The Women’s Center.

Oct. 9: The “Clothesline Project” will be on display from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Faner Hall on the Southern Illinois University Carbondale campus.

Oct. 10: The “Clothesline Project” will be on display from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. by the statue at John A. Logan College in Carterville

Oct. 11: The “Take Back the Night” event begins at 4:30 p.m. at The Women’s Center, 610 S. Thompson St., where people are invited to make posters and signs to carry on the march. Attendees are then asked to gather at the Gaia House between 5:30 and 6 p.m. The march to the Carbondale Pavilion will begin at 6 p.m. At the pavilion, there will be speakers and refreshments.

Oct. 14: The public is invited to an open house from 4 to 6 p.m. at The Women’s Center's Marion location, 1111 Anker Dr..

Oct. 17: From 5 to 7 p.m., The Women’s Center is hosting an event at the African American Museum inside the University Mall in Carbondale called “The Secrets We Keep”

Oct. 21: The “Clothesline Project” will be on display again at John A. Logan College from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Oct. 29: The “Clothesline Project” will be on display again at Faner Hall on SIU campus from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Oct. 25/26: The “Pumpkin Stroll” will be open from 6 to 9 p.m. both days on the campus of Heartland Regional Medical Center in Marion. There will be 450 lighted pumpkins on display, carved by area volunteers. Any groups interested in helping carve pumpkins for the display should contact Pfeifer at 618-549-4807 ext. 228 or by email at wcds@thewomensctr.org.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to note that the Oct. 14 open house will take place at The Women's Center's Marion location. The original version stated that it would be in Carbondale. 

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