The Duncan Banner

October 11, 2012

Silent Witness event fosters domestic violence awareness

Rebeka Rutledge
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN — There have been more than 60 domestic violence related deaths in Oklahoma this year and one way local United Way agency Women’s Haven tries to create awareness is through the Silent Witness Initiative.

This is a project that began in 1990 by a group of women in Minnesota that soon grew and is now country wide.

Silent Witness is brought to Duncan every October as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Not only spreads the word on these senseless killings, but also serves as a memorial honoring those whose lives were lost in relation to domestic violence.

“There are about 50 silhouettes that represent victims, from infants to the elderly,” said Penny Gardner, director of education at Women’s Haven. “These killings don’t make sense and there are no rhyme or reason to them, no matter what the situation.”

In previous years, they have set up the display in Fuqua Park, however, this year it was moved to Memorial Park.

The 50 or so red life-size silhouettes each represent a person and have that individual’s story printed on the shape.

Memorial Park offers a wider space for the silhouettes and Garder said they hope they are more visible to the public.

If so, the move to Memorial Park may become permanent.

“We hope people will stop and read the stories,” Gardner said.

A few volunteers were out helping Gardner set up the scene, along with Rachele Eskridge, special projects coordinator for the Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, and her three young sons. Eskridge said her children are much aware of what the silhouettes represent.

“They have been going with me for this ever since I started and they know all the stories,” she said. “They take it seriously.”

None of this year’s silhouette stories are from Stephens County due to the fact that it has been several years since the last known domestic violence death occurred in the county and even the most recent one doesn’t have permission to be shared.

One of this year’s volunteers for the project was Carol Zachary, who has been volunteering for Women’s Haven less than a year.

“(Women’s Haven) is always doing something wonderful,” she said. “This is a worthwhile thing because most people just go on with their lives and don’t think about this.”