Harbor Bar Bartender Jessica Josie with Alenna Nilsen, Advocate and Prevention Coordinator for WAVE, Working Against Violence for Everyone. (Photo by Rachel Cassandra, KFSK)

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. And in Petersburg, a local organization, Working Against Violence for Everyone, or WAVE, asked people in town to wear purple on October 20th. The visibility event highlighted the resources available for survivors of domestic abuse. 

I found three people from WAVE speedwalking around the streets of downtown Petersburg. There was a cheerful, frenetic energy to their purple group as they tried to take photos of as many people as possible waving purple flags. 

Sarah Hofstetter told me they’d already visited seven businesses and received many donations. She said, “Our goal today is $2022 and we feel close already!” They walked up to the Harbor Bar, not sure if it was open yet… It was, and they took photos of the bartender, Jessica Josie in a purple frame.

The photos are part of “Wave for WAVE,” which is an annual event. It’s a day WAVE hopes highlights domestic violence awareness. And it’s a way to open the door to people reaching out when they do need help. 

I sat down with Asianna Ware the next day to talk about WAVE’s work. She is WAVE’s prevention coordinator. Ware works a lot with youth on prevention. She visits schools throughout the year for education about relationships. She described the education. “It’s primarily about consent, and what consent is. And what healthy and unhealthy relationship might look like. …And things that you know, can kind of be grazed over, especially emotional abuse, which a lot of people don’t really recognize, and financial abuse, which a lot of people don’t really recognize. And then communication, and effective forms of communication, if you do feel like your boundaries are being crossed.”

Recently, some kids told Ware that they were seeing bullying in schools in Petersburg. “There was a student that came up to me and they were just talking to me about how in the middle school, there are a lot of instances of bullying, especially for queer kids and kids of color.”

So, Ware started UNITY, which is a youth-led club teaching kids about diversity, equity, and inclusion. It’s meant to be a safe space for all kids, whatever their identity. It’s anti-bullying and kids can share their experiences. She said, “It’s about just offering it, you know, and seeing what happens, and there were way more students that showed up and what I was expecting, but it’s been awesome.”

Ware talked with me about some of WAVE’s other new programs. WAVE wants to be more than just a resource for those with an active crisis. She said, “We’re trying to foster a sense of community for people who need a sense of community, whether they are, you know, survivors or victims or not, whether they’re in a safe home or not, it doesn’t matter.”

They’ve been offering free mindful movement classes and a stitch-and-bitch for crafters. As of Friday, WAVE was still counting their donations for the event.