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The Purple Scarf Project: Riverside’s Symbol of Hope and Unity For Domestic Violence Survivors

It all started with a vision and a spool of brightly colored yarn. Over ten years ago, The Purple Scarf Project was born in “The New Beginnings” support group hosted by Riverside Community Care and Transition House.

One survivor of domestic violence had a powerful idea:

“What would it be like to have a purple scarf, highlighting the tragedy of domestic violence and symbolizing the strength of survivors, wrap all the way around Cambridge City Hall? What if this project grew from town to town with city halls across Massachusetts garnished in purple?”

What if there was a way to help domestic violence survivors feel less alone?

Healing One Stitch at a Time

With the goal of raising awareness of domestic violence and wrapping a scarf around Cambridge City Hall, The Purple Scarf Project began.

Members of Riverside’s domestic violence services team taught knitting novices the basics and provided sewing needles and purple yarn to everyone eager to contribute. Participants knit or crocheted scarf segments to be joined together and attached to the scarf. Many affixed a meaningful quote, poem, or saying to inspire other survivors. When someone made a mistake while knitting, they were encouraged to continue without “fixing” it – nobody’s perfect, and missteps are part of our collective journey.

Survivors educated each other, distributed resources, and shared their stories while knitting the purple scarf. But they weren’t just knitting – they were also embracing a safe haven where they could find solace among people with shared struggles.

Purple ScarfThe Purple Scarf Prospers

Initially, the purple scarf only grew when “The New Beginnings” support group members knit during meetings. However, survivors enthusiastically shared project details with friends and family, and Riverside updated their community via newsletters and social media posts. Before long, church groups, knitting organizations, and allies from all over were mailing purple scarf segments to Riverside.

The scarf was only two feet long when this project started. But soon, it grew to over 220 feet – taller than Niagara Falls and the Leaning Tower of Pisa!

The Purple Scarf Today

Last month – Domestic Violence Awareness Month – the purple scarf was proudly displayed at vigils in Cambridge and Somerville. But Gail Council, retired Riverside Senior Family Advocate and a leader of the support group where The Purple Scarf Project originated, reminds us, “Domestic violence survivors need to be supported year-round with the urgency and tenacity typically reserved for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.”

With the goal of wrapping around City Hall still on the horizon but ever in view, the purple scarf today serves as a symbol of our constant and growing commitment to the strength and tenacity of domestic violence survivors.

Purple Scarf


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