Early Saturday morning, about 250 people lined up outside Pierpont Commons to participate in the first annual Purple Run 5K run/walk held by the the University’s Division of Public Safety and Security in conjunction with the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office.
The goal of the run was to raise awareness for domestic violence and to fundraise for the SafeHouse Center. Entertainment for the event was provided by Soultivity, a band of local attorneys from Ann Arbor.
Brian Mackie, the prosecuting attorney of Washtenaw County since 1993, kicked off the event.
“When you leave you should tell everyone what you did,” he said. “You are champions of justice for running this today. More than 1,000 domestic violence cases a year, and that it is one of the most underreported crimes means that it’s the tip of the iceberg. We can’t tolerate that level of violence and misery that has to change.”
After opening statements by Mackie and Barbara Niess-May, executive director of SafeHouse, the race was started by Arnett Chisholm, dean of admissions and student life at Washtenaw Community College and assistant track coach at the University.
The loop was centralized on North Campus, and runners and walkers alike went about it at their own pace. The first finisher was Engineering sophomore Charlie Castelli, who had a self-timed 18:27 finish.
The time it took for participants to complete their route, however, was not the main focus of the day. According to DPSS, every 60 seconds, 20 people are victims of intimate violence. In addition, every year, an average of 54 officers are killed in the line of duty responding to domestic violence calls.
During the event, Niess-May advocated for the resources that SafeHouse provides.
“We support survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence by putting qualified trained counselors in front of people in crisis, and need help for what’s going on in their life. We also offer shelter, support groups, legal advocacy, (personal protection order) assistance, some limited financial assistance.”
The event drew numerous University participants including first-year Medical student Jennifer Neva.
“I am a big fan of SafeHouse and the work they do for the community,” said Neva. “In medicine we often think that health issues related to domestic violence don’t get the attention they deserve, so this is a really good way for people to learn about these issues and help support the cause.”
The organizers plan to make the Purple Run an annual event, and hope for more people to get involved in the cause.