Kerry Washington Wants to Empower Women—One Bag at a Time

The Scandal star and mom of two explains why she teamed up with Purple Purse to help women escape domestic and financial abuse

Kerry Washington - InStyle FEB 2017 - LEAD
Photo: Maarten de Boer/Contour by Getty

When I first heard the term "financial abuse," I was honestly a bit confused. I understood domestic abuse, but I didn't realize that in almost all cases, in addition to inflicting physical harm, abusers block their partners from acquiring, using, and maintaining financial resources. It's part of what keeps victims from simply walking away. Three years ago the Allstate Foundation approached me about designing a bag for its Purple Purse initiative to help raise money for these victims, and I couldn't say no. I care a lot about female empowerment, and I know a little bit about fashion, so it's an ideal partnership.

Back in 2013 I created a bag that grassroots antiviolence organizations auctioned off. Now I've transitioned from designer to creative director to help the project really grow. I recently asked Tory Burch and Christian Louboutin to make bags that will be auctioned off, with 100 percent of the proceeds supporting the cause [follow @PurplePurse on Twitter and Facebook for information on upcoming auctions and how to bid]. Tory has worked hard for women's empowerment through her Tory Burch Foundation, so getting her involved was a no-brainer. And since Christian has two little girls of his own, he's really invested in raising awareness about issues that affect women.

We make up 51 percent of the population, so we have to ask ourselves, "Why are we still so vulnerable in some situations?" Purple Purse did a PSA featuring a woman who had to hide money inside cardboard tampon applicators until she finally had enough to escape. Hearing her story reminded me that when we give abuse survivors money or grants, we give them the ability to save their own lives and the lives of their children.

If you or someone you know is a victim of financial abuse, or if you'd like to make a donation to support others, go to As a woman and as the mother of a daughter, I always say that we should be creating social structures that protect us. I'm trying to do just that, one bag at a time.

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