Anyone buying pizza this month at Gutch’s Bar & Grill in Hays can also donate to help raise awareness of domestic violence.

Gutch’s, 111 W. Seventh, Hays, is hosting fundraising for domestic violence during October with it’s “Change a life, make a difference” promotion.

Customers of the wood-fired pizza restaurant can round up the change from their bill to donate.

“What a wonderful way to bring awareness to domestic violence,” said Jennifer Hecker, executive director of Options: Domestic & Sexual Violence Services Inc. “What a great business to be willing to do that.”

Options, 2716 Plaza Ave., Hays, provides help for people dealing with domestic violence and sexual assault in 18 counties in northwest Kansas.

Domestic Violence Awareness month started Oct. 1 and runs throughout the month, said Timothy Tarkelly, community services coordinator for Options, who spoke about awareness events to the Ellis County Commission at their regular meeting Monday evening in the Ellis County Administrative Center, 718 Main St.

Ellis County Commissioner Barbara Wasinger had $2 on hand for Tarkelly.

“We will be selling purple lightbulbs for $2 apiece that you can put in your porch light or your business window, or wherever else, to show your support for domestic violence survivors in our community,” he said.

The kick-off event starts at 6 p.m. with free chili and cinnamon rolls, on Friday at Big Creek Crossing, 2918 Vine.

“From 7 to 8 we’ll have guest speakers and we’ll be lighting a big Christmas tree purple to commemorate domestic violence awareness month,” Tarkelly said. “The event is free, there will be free food, children’s activities and a whole host of amazing speakers. And we will be selling purple lightbulbs at the event.”

The idea is to leave a purple light on throughout the entire month of October. Besides the event, people also can buy the lightbulbs at Breathe Coffee House, 703 B Main St., Rejuvenations Day Spa, 3007 Hall St., or Hays Hair Academy, 1214 E. 27th.

The international Purple Light Nights campaign brings awareness to domestic violence issues, particularly survivors who are suffering in silence, those who have died from domestic violence, and hope for those who really need help, Hecker said.

Options, which has been around for 35 years, provides free, confidential crisis intervention 24 hours a day, with 24-hour safe shelter, 24-hour emergency accommodations, a 24-hour helpline, supportive counseling, court advocacy, parent and child advocacy, support groups, and other services.

In 2017, Options answered 7,061 requests for services, including 3,000 nights of safe shelter to 121 people, Hecker said.

The viral #metoo and #timesup movements have raised awareness the past couple years about domestic violence and sexual assault, she said.

Locally, the number of people seeking help from Options has increased. In the past three years the requests for domestic violence services have increased 295 percent, and for sexual assault services by 334 percent.

“People are beginning to realize it’s ok to ask for help,” Hecker said. “I think we’re seeing a culture shift.”

More so in the past, people suffered in silence, and didn’t know where to turn for help, she said, but there’s been much more news coverage and social media attention on the issue, including on how victim blaming inhibits people from coming forward.

Kick-off speakers on Friday will include City of Hays Police Chief Don Scheibler; Ellis County Sheriff Ed Harbin; and Christie Brungardt, co-founder of Jana’s Campaign Inc., a national nonprofit program bringing education and awareness about intimate partner violence and sexual assault.

The event will feature a “Silent Witness” display of individual domestic violence stories of Kansas people murdered. A memorial, with a moment of silence, will recognize the people and their families, with some of their family members on hand for the event.

“The tree will be up all month,” Hecker said.