The Scandal star designed a limited-edition purse to raise funds and awareness

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When it comes to women’s issues, Scandal star and activist Kerry Washington is always tuned-in – and hands-on.

She has merged her love of style with a cause that’s dear to her heart, teaming up with the Allstate Foundation to design a limited-edition purse benefitting victims of domestic and financial abuse.

“I actually fell into this work as an artist,” Washington tells PEOPLE of her dedication to the cause. “Back in 2000, I had just finished filming Save the Last Dance, and my friend and costar Julia Stiles invited me to watch her in Eve Ensler’s play The Vagina Monologues. I was so moved by all these stories of women’s identity, value and worth. After that I became part of the movement to end violence against women.”

So when the Allstate Foundation approached her with the opportunity to design for its Purple Purse program, Washington was thrilled.

“I thought, ‘This is an issue I care about, and I also care about a good handbag, so I’m in!’ ” she says. “Purple is the signature color for domestic violence awareness, and a purse is where a woman’s financial well-being lives. This bag represents taking back your purse strings in the face of abuse.”

And it’s a timely issue.

“I got goose bumps after reading the recent #WhyILeft and #WhyIStayed posts by battered women on Twitter,” Washington says. “My heart breaks a little that there’s even a need for this work. But like the prayer that says, ‘Just use me.’ I’m happy to be doing my part.”

For more information on the Purple Purse program and how you can win one of Washington’s designs, visit purplepurse.com

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