The purple butterfly project is a community-based initiative that aims to raise awareness about domestic violence and provide support for those affected by it. The project uses the purple butterfly as its symbol to promote healing, hope and change.
Why the purple butterfly?
The color purple symbolizes courage, survival, honor and dedication to a cause. The butterfly represents transformation, change and new beginnings. Together, the purple butterfly evokes the strength it takes to transition out of difficult circumstances, spread your wings and fly. It is a sign of hope for domestic violence victims that there is light after the darkness.
Purple is also the color associated with domestic violence awareness. By using the purple butterfly in particular, the project connects to existing anti-domestic violence efforts and shows solidarity with all those working to end abuse.
History of the project
The purple butterfly project was started in 2008 by a small group of domestic violence advocates and survivors in Virginia. They began distributing purple butterfly magnets and stickers as a symbol of support for those affected by intimate partner violence. Something as simple as a purple butterfly sticker on a car or fridge could let victims know they are not alone.
From this small initial effort, the project took off nationally and then globally. Today, the purple butterfly is an internationally recognized symbol of hope for domestic violence victims and survivors. The project has expanded to involve public art installations, memorials, educational activities and more.
Goals of the project
The purple butterfly project aims to:
- Raise awareness about domestic violence and its impact
- Pay tribute to those who have lost their lives to domestic violence
- Lend strength and solidarity to abuse survivors
- Inspire community action against domestic violence
- Advocate for societal changes to prevent abuse
- Offer hope for a better future free of violence
Some of the key messages promoted by the purple butterfly project include:
- Domestic violence affects people of all races, ages, genders, religions, incomes, abilities and sexual orientations.
- Abuse is never acceptable or excusable.
- Everyone deserves to feel safe, respected and cared for in their relationships.
- We must speak up about domestic violence so more people feel empowered to seek help.
- Our society needs more education, support services and justice system reforms to better address this issue.
- Change starts with each of us taking action in our own lives and communities.
- Healing from abuse is possible.
- There is hope – people can and do transition out of abusive relationships every day.
The purple butterfly project engages in many activities to spread its message of awareness and hope. Some examples include:
- Purple butterfly displays: Large butterfly cutouts are installed in prominent community locations to get people talking.
- Wearing purple ribbons: Ribbons are worn and distributed on specific awareness days.
- Candlelight vigils: Vigils honor those who have died from domestic violence.
- Marches: Purple butterfly marches bring attention to the cause.
- Memorials: Purple butterflies are used in memorial gardens and displays.
- Curriculum: Educational materials teach youth about healthy relationships.
- Fundraising events: Funds are raised to support domestic violence services.
- Training: Bystander intervention training teaches people how to speak up safely.
- Support groups: Peer support groups provide space for survivors to connect.
- Policy change: Advocating for legislation to protect victims and prevent abuse.
How you can get involved
Everyone has a role to play in spreading the message of the purple butterfly. Here are some ways you can take action:
- Learn the signs of an unhealthy relationship and know where to refer people for help
- Believe and support victims when they disclose abuse
- Speak out against victim-blaming attitudes
- Volunteer at or donate to domestic violence agencies
- Contact elected officials to support policies that address this issue
- Put up a purple butterfly in your home or office as a symbol of hope
- Educate yourself and others by hosting movie nights, trainings, etc.
- Interrupt discriminatory or abusive behaviors among your friends and family
- Share purple butterfly project messaging on social media
Even small acts like wearing a purple ribbon or butterfly pin demonstrate compassion for victims and a commitment to being part of the solution.
The purple butterfly in art and culture
The purple butterfly has become a powerful artistic and cultural symbol of domestic violence awareness over the past decade. Some examples include:
- Murals: Purple butterfly wings are painted on walls, buildings and public spaces.
- Sculptures: Butterfly sculptures and statues can be found in many communities.
- Quilts: Memorial quilts stitch together the names of those killed by abusers.
- Poetry: Poems using butterfly imagery convey themes of struggle, resilience and freedom.
- Songs: Musical artists sing about purple butterflies taking flight.
- Plays: Theatrical works incorporate the purple butterfly to tell victims’ stories.
- Flags: Purple butterfly flags fly at survivor marches and are displayed in activist spaces.
This growing presence in art and culture has helped solidify the purple butterfly as an international emblem of the anti-domestic violence movement. The aesthetically beautiful butterfly juxtaposed with the painful significance behind it packs a powerful symbolic punch.
While widely embraced, the use of the purple butterfly has not been without some controversies, including:
- Some feel the butterfly image overly feminizes the issue when domestic violence also heavily impacts men, boys and LGBTQ people.
- Others argue the butterfly represents fragility rather than the strength and resilience of many survivors.
- Some advocates prefer to use different symbols based on cultural meaning or accessibility.
- There have been concerns about the project’s founders and organizers lacking diversity.
- A small number feel the color purple appropriates African American culture.
- Some organizations use different colors like yellow or orange to distinguish their own anti-abuse campaigns.
However, the majority of criticism has centered on the gendered implications of the butterfly iconography. Overall, the purple butterfly continues to be embraced as an overarching symbol that resonates with many survivors, activists, victims’ families and community members.
Purple butterfly project success stories
The purple butterfly project has uplifted abuse victims and engaged communities around the world. Some success stories include:
- In Detroit, a giant purple butterfly mural transformed a building that once felt oppressive to neighborhood residents into a beacon of hope.
- Thousands of handmade quilts with purple butterflies have provided comfort to abuse survivors across the U.S.
- The town of Naples, Florida introduced a purple butterfly curriculum in all elementary schools that teaches students about respectful relationships from a young age.
- In Pakistan, the organization CHAYN used the purple butterfly in their public awareness campaign about gender violence, reaching over 5 million people on social media.
- A memorial butterfly garden planted in Dallas, Texas has helped the community grieve those lost to family violence.
- The UN Commission on the Status of Women featured purple butterflies at their 2017 convening to symbolize their commitment to ending violence against women and girls globally.
These are just a few examples of the wide-reaching impact. No matter the location or specific activity, the purple butterfly project reminds people they are not alone and change is possible.
The purple butterfly project has emerged as a grassroots movement that resonates powerfully with many domestic violence survivors, advocates, families of victims and concerned community members. By embracing the purple butterfly as a symbol of hope, courage and transformation, people across the world are coming together to raise awareness, support victims, honor those lost to violence, and create social change.
There is more work to be done, but the passion and dedication behind the purple butterfly project inspires action. With greater understanding and compassion, we can uplift survivors’ voices, shift attitudes, reform policies and build communities where violence has no place. The purple butterfly invites us to join in this vision and take steps, however small, toward positive change.
When victims and vulnerable people see purple butterflies in their communities, they know they have not been forgotten. They know there are many working toward a safer and more just world. The purple butterfly project reminds us we are all connected in the shared human experiences of suffering, resilience and the desire to be free.