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Combined walk will benefit SAFE (Services to Abused Families)

In addition to being exceptional flag-football players the ladies of the Culpeper Women’s Flag Football League (CWFFL) are wives, moms, girlfriends, sisters, grandmothers and exceptional allies in the fight against domestic violence.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Never a group that retreats from a challenge, the women of the CWFFL, willingly compete in the testosterone-addled arena of football on a weekly basis. And they do it with style.

Each Sunday families, fans and friends gather to watch these women of power and grace pass, block, punt and battle on the green field of Yowell Meadow Park in downtown Culpeper.

The league has nearly 200 players, a number slightly higher than the 110 women who annually seek shelter and safety from domestic abuse within the S.A.F.E (Services to Abused Families) program.

It is sobering to consider that one in four women will be the victim of some kind of domestic abuse in their lifetimes in the United States. When you consider the league’s numbers that could mean that nearly 45 women could possibly be facing this issue in a group of this size.

Many additional families, children and communities also reap the bitter harvest of violence and its effects.

As an active and growing partner to its community, the CWFFL has teamed up with SAFE to create awareness, increase funding and organize a walk in unity against the growing tide of violence towards women. The partnership was formed to coincide with National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Powerful partnering

“When Crystal Van Buren and Amanda Maley came to us a few months back about working with us on a way to become involved with SAFE we eagerly agreed to the partnership,” said George Stockes, director of SAFE. “We knew how active and family-oriented this league is so we wanted to approach this partnership differently. We didn’t want to do a traditional fundraiser because of the number of people in their league and their uniqueness. We could not have asked for a better group to work with.”

"As a former social worker, I often worked with women and children who experienced domestic violence. While physical violence often heals and is not visible after time, emotional wounds remain and can severely affect individuals and children in their lives. I feel there is a need to educate the community to inform them that domestic violence is not limited to physical abuse, but also includes emotional and verbal abuse. Additionally, knowing someone close to you who has been a victim of domestic violence really contributes to wanting to do more. I am looking forward to participating with such a strong group of women to promote such a powerful cause," said Crystal Van Buren who has been instrumental in organizing the partnership.

This Saturday SAFE and the league are holding an event to raise money by team and there will be more than 100 members of their league walking with SAFE staff and concerned citizens to show unity and solidarity against domestic violence.

The walk will take place on Oct. 13, beginning at 9 a.m. at Yowell Meadow Park’s walking trail.

“We anticipate this to be a stepping stone for more collaboration. They are really passionate about this. They are doing the ground work,” said Gina Mullins, an outreach coordinator for SAFE. “All participants will get purple cause bands. The CWFFL raised the money for purple uniforms with a spirit night at Buffalo Wild Wings. They are going to wear them for the walk and during their games on Sunday afternoon.”
On Sunday SAFE representatives will return to hold a ceremony with certificates prior to the league’s kick-off at 1 p.m. The league’s games will follow at 2 p.m.

“As a league we wanted to reach out to our community to help. Crystal reached out to SAFE who then reached out to us in hopes we would support and help with their first walk for domestic violence,” said Amanda Maley, vice president of the CWFFL. “Without a second thought our league jumped right in.”
As an all-women’s league this cause is close to the heart.

“Needless to say to a women’s league of over 150 women this cause means everything. Our league is a dominate force within the community. We have younger girls who look up to our league, to which now ages 7 to 14 girls have their own flag football league,” added Maley. “We can impact our community in a positive way.”

The effort to create uniforms and participate in the walk has been unanimous. The support from the larger community has also helped accelerate the cause to the forefront.

League to play in purple

“With the help of Cintas, our league will be wearing purple/white T-shirts supporting domestic violence (awareness), SAFE, as well as our league for the walk and Sunday’s game day,” said Mallory.

The league is also a proud supporter of Breast Cancer Awareness and it annually supports awareness with fund raising and pink attire.

“Last year during the month of October each weekend we supported breast cancer awareness by wearing pink,” Mallory said. “Working with SAFE, helping such a wonderful cause within the community is something I cherish. Stopping domestic violence is a cause that needs to be supported. When there’s no place to go, no one to turn to SAFE is there to help the battered and abused. The CWFFL, a league of woman, a force to be reckoned with on the field, also stands behind this cause helping to raise money for the ones who need it most.”

Each year within the Culpeper area hundreds ―mostly women ― are abused and it is often a daunting task to find them and provide help. Regrettably the signs of domestic violence are often cloaked in fear, shame or drug abuse, according to SAFE.

“Unfortunately we’ve even seen generations of abusers,” said Stockes. “Abuse can also influence and create more abuse.”

SAFE provides sanctuary

SAFE creates awareness in a number of ways through its Moments of Remembrance, Purple Ribbons, cut-out silhouettes, a candle light vigil, cooperation with local law enforcement and social services.

“Locally SAFE has a shelter and 110 people a year, generally women and children, seek help form us there,” added Stockes. “One of our greatest resources is the Culpeper Town Police Department, community watch organizers and other concerned citizens who help us make contact with abuse victims.”

SAFE directly or indirectly supports 350 people annually escape the horrors of abuse.

SAFE is a private, non-profit 501c (3) organization established in 1980 to serve survivors of domestic violence. Over the years, SAFE has expanded its services to meet the needs of the community. In 2007, SAFE became a "dual" program, providing prevention, intervention and educational services for sexual assault victims and their children along with survivors of domestic violence.

Throughout the years all SAFE services and support have remained free and confidential. It serves the counties of Culpeper, Fauquier, Madison, Orange, and Rappahannock.

For more information on SAFE go to www.safejourneys.org for CWFFL check out www.leaguelineup.com .
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