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Kerry Washington Campaigns to End Domestic Violence: 'It Matters So Much to Be Able to Do Something'

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Kyleen James

Scandal‘s Kerry Washington has been passionate about women’s empowerment and domestic violence issues for years, and now for the third year, Washington has signed on to be an ambassador for the Allstate Foundation Purple Purse campaign, which benefits victims and survivors of domestic and financial abuse.

“For me, it’s just such an ideal partnership, because selfishly I just participate and work in areas that are very important to me, meaning both fashion and supporting women’s empowerment,” Washington, 39, tells PEOPLE.

She adds: “To be an ambassador for the Allstate Foundation and for Purple Purse is an honor for me, because I love being able to be a part of real, long-term solutions for giving security, and wisdom, and knowledge and empowerment for domestic violence victims and survivors.”

This year, the Purple Purse 2016 Domestic Violence campaign from the Allstate Foundation launches the #FreetoWalk campaign, which calls “attention to the barriers that keep women trapped in abusive relationships,” according to the foundation.

Kerry Washington
Kyleen James
Says Vicky Dinges, senior vice president, Corporate Responsibility, Allstate Insurance Company: “In the past, survivor services were mostly focused on healing physical cuts and bruises. While that healing is certainly important, what s equally critical is making sure the victim doesn t have to return to her abuser because she can t afford to live independently. If her abuser has controlled all the finances, the victim often has no way to leave.”

“By helping survivors understand the importance of financial self-sufficiency and helping them get the financial resources they need, we help survivors take steps toward financial independence and lives free from abuse,” continues Dinges. “Allstate Foundation Purple Purse has helped shift the focus of survivor services beyond short-term healing to long-term safety and security.”

The above online film, “America’s Largest Prison Break,” kicks off #FreetoWalk and was inspired by the true story of a financial abuse survivor, a Michigan mother named Lori, and her journey to freedom.

“Financial abuse is such an invisible weapon,” says Washington. “It’s not something we think of.”

She continues: “We can see black eyes and we can see bruising and I think, we think a lot about the emotional abuse, and all of those things are valid, but to know that financial abuse is the number one reason why women stay and why they can’t walk away – it matters so much to be able to do something about that because it unlocks the solutions in the other areas as well.”

And for the last two years, Washington has teamed up with the foundation to design a bag, which benefits the Purple Purse campaign. But as she gears up to launch another bag in the fall, Washington says that the “goal is to not have to design them anymore.”

“The goal is to really end the cycle of abuse so that the choice to have a Purple Purse is solely esthetic and not about making a difference and changing lives through fashion,” she says.

For more information on the Purple Purse, visit purplepurse.com.