A girl puts on a medal after completing the race. She wears running clothes and has a smile on her face.
Kyleigh Calvert, Undergraduate Engineering Student at University of Michigan, finishes the Purple Run 5k in Ann Arbor Saturday morning. The race, benefitting the SafeHouse Center, was hosted by U-M Division of Public Safety and Security, Ann Arbor Police Department, and Washtenaw County Prosecutor's Office. Holly Burkhart/Daily. Buy this photo.

More than 200 runners gathered at the University of Michigan James and Anne Duderstadt Center for Ann Arbor’s ninth annual Purple Run, a 5K race fundraiser raising awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault. Organized by the Ann Arbor Police Department, the Division of Public Safety and Security and the Washtenaw County Prosecutor Attorney’s Office, the race also highlights resources available for survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault in the Ann Arbor and broader Washtenaw County communities. Money raised at the race is donated to SafeHouse Center, a local nonprofit organization that provides free and confidential support to survivors of sexual violence. 

As runners checked in at the registration stand before the race, law enforcement officials and community organizations who sponsored the event manned tables beside them, offering information about their work. One of the founders of Purple Run, DPSS Detective Margie Pillsbury is the lead officer of the special victims unit at DPSS. According to Pillsbury, the race’s turnout was slightly lower than in previous years, which Pillsbury attributes to its coincidence with the Michigan-Michigan State University football game.

LSA junior Xi Yuan Zheng participated in the Purple Run for the first time this year. In an interview with The Daily, Zheng said she wanted to participate because she believes events like Purple Run help de-stigmatize speaking up about sexual violence.

“It’s my first time running a 5K, and the whole summer I’ve just been running, and I thought it would be a big milestone,” Zheng said. “There’s a stigma about women speaking out about these issues and I think it’s a good cause to be a part of this event.”

Before the race, Christine Watson, SafeHouse Center executive director, expressed her gratitude to the runners and organizers for supporting SafeHouse’s work.  

“Everyday, staff and volunteers at SafeHouse Center work diligently to make sure that survivors are empowered, that their voices are uplifted and that they know that the abuse is not their fault,” Watson said. “Today, we are all here to show survivors that in this community that they are also not alone.”

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., also addressed the runners before the race to share her own experience with domestic abuse.

“I know what it’s like to be that child that’s hiding in the closet, and not sure if you’re going to live or die,” Dingell said. “And when I called law enforcement, they didn’t answer because ‘It didn’t happen in families like yours.’ ” 

In addition to the event’s aim to fundraise for SafeHouse, Pillsbury said she also hopes it will help strengthen the relationship between community members and law enforcement when it comes to responding to violence and abuse. 

“We have several police officers who run the event each year in full uniform,” Pillsbury said. “This is a demonstration of our commitment to survivors: We truly care.” 

Daily News Contributor Anna Javier can be reached at ajavier@umich.edu