Despite being passionate about women’s empowerment and domestic violence issues for years, Scandal actress Kerry Washington had never heard of financial abuse – the tactics abusers use to keep victims feeling trapped, like restricting their access to credit cards or legal and financial support.
“It turns out that 98 percent of all domestic violence cases involve financial abuse, so it’s a huge reason for why women stay in abusive relationships and why they go back after they leave,” Washington tells PEOPLE. “They feel they don’t have the tools to take care of themselves and their families.”
When the Allstate Foundation approached Washington to design a purple purse to promote the issue in 2014, she didn’t quite understand the purse part – until it really clicked.
“Abuse is hard to talk about, so we thought a purse is a beautiful object that can get the conversation started,” Washington says. “It is a symbol of a woman’s financial domain.”
This is the second year Washington has designed a bag for the Allstate Foundation Purple Purse campaign. This year, she worked with designer Dee Ocleppo to make the design, opting for a sleek clutch that can be worn with a chain across the body. The exterior is faux croc, and the inside is a bright peacock color.
The bag, which will be sold limited edition, is designed to raise awareness and money for the issue in a concrete way.
“It’s such a daunting vision to end all violence against women and girls, but this was so exciting to me because it’s such a concrete way to tackle this problem,” Washington shares. “It’s fun to work on women’s empowerment and be girly about it. It incorporates all of who I am – my love of fashion, art, design and human rights.”
The purse represents so much more than just fashion – though it is, admittedly, quite fashionable.
“For me, it’s a way of saying I believe in the end of domestic violence, and I believe in the end of financial abuse, and I believe in the ability of a woman to support herself financially,” she says.
The new purple purse, which retails for $350, is available for purchase beginning Sept. 25 at select Saks Fifth Avenue locations and on Saks.com. Twenty-five percent of proceeds will go toward more than 160 domestic violence programs around the country.