“He threw me on the bed, covered my mouth and plugged my nose, told me he had my life in his hands,” Barton said of that dark day more than 10 years ago. “I have never been so scared. He went to work the next day, I called my dad, said, ‘Can I come home?’ and he said yes. I was at my parents’ house in three hours.”
A few months later, she took back her abuser and the violence continued. The abuse was also verbal and emotional, which she felt was worse.
“The outside wound can heal, sometimes there is no scar, it just goes away. But the inside wounds, you never forget,” said Barton, who works for Culpeper County.
She remembered getting slapped across the face, and a time in 2001 when her abuser put her head through a door and the police were called.
In court, the then 20-something-year-old was met by a representative from the then newly-formed Services to Abused Families, or SAFE. Barton can still recall a pamphlet the woman from SAFE explained to her, showing the cycle of abuse.
“The honeymoon phase, then anger, you get hit, then I’m sorry and it’s back to the honeymoon phase. She was on point and I lied to that judge and told him he didn’t hit me,” she said.
In recent weeks, hurtful, threatening messages on social media surfaced from her one-time abuser, stating Barton deserved what she got.
Instead of reacting, she opted to take action, creating the Purple Ribbon Project in support of SAFE clients. The concept is simple yet practical—fill a purple bag or basket with necessities a woman would need when fleeing violence.
“You have to take your power back. You have to own it,” Barton said in an interview from her home in town a couple of weeks ago. “I already made 10 bags. These are the staples we use every day, but in the event she needs to hurry up and go or she is in transition at SAFE, she has a go-pack.”
Each bag costs $30.09 and contains all brand new items: a toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, soap, hairbrush, hair ties, pads, shirt, leggings, panties, socks, laundry detergent, hand sanitizer, notepad, pen, razor, shaving cream, dental floss, a washcloth, water bottle and feminine wipes.
Barton is working to turn the project into an official nonprofit and intends to focus on local women first.
Down the road, she hopes to expand the program to possibly include the homeless and elderly. Barton, rather than live in the past, is looking ahead to how she can help others in the present and future, and is hopeful that the community will support her with donations of funds or supplies for the purple bags.
“I am going to put my energy and focus into making a difference for women who have it worse than I did. I was very lucky. I got to move in with my parents. Yes, I left with the clothes on my back the second time and I was able to retrieve my stuff, but there are so many women who don’t get that chance,” Barton said.
Besides her own experience, hearing Mildred Mohammad—wife of the D.C. sniper—share her domestic violence story last year in Culpeper prompted the local survivor to start the project.
“Hearing her talk, speak up and be an advocate to be strong, inspired me to get involved,” Barton said.
Brooke Chumley, Community Outreach Coordinator at SAFE, said the organization was excited to see Margery step out on behalf of her own story and share her compassion and support with SAFE.
“This project signifies so much. The color purple symbolizing the color of domestic violence awareness as well as the contents of the bag signifying the basic necessities that someone may have to leave behind,” Chumley said. “They are all things our shelters and organization as a whole utilize frequently and in large quantities.”
She noted SAFE is getting ready to open a new shelter in July and further commended Barton for wanting to make a difference in the lives of others who have experienced what she did. “It’s beautiful to see and in turn provides a little healing for their own journey,” Chumley said.
Barton emphasized no one should have to endure domestic abuse.
“You are worth more than this. You are valuable and loved and cared about and you do have a place to go,” she said.
Barton almost didn’t make it out.
“It’s a vicious cycle to get out of because when you’re beaten down, you just lose yourself,” she said.
Thankfully, Barton has found an outlet for positivity.
“This is my home and I feel lucky,” she said of Culpeper. “I want to give back to a community that has been so good to us.”
To donate to the Purple Ribbon Project, email firstname.lastname@example.org.