The power of silence: Abuse exhibit challenges community to hear victims

By: Racheal Miller, contributing writer

Strangled. Shot. Blunt force trauma. Stabbed. Beaten. Set on fire.

Every day these descriptors are used to portray crimes on cop dramas or report them on nightly news’ broadcasts.

The saturation of violent imagery has made some domestic violence groups feel that Americans sometimes forget what is occurring or do not realize that it is happening right next-door. The Silent Witness Project seeks to change that perception by bringing visitors face-to-face with victims of domestic violence. The travelling exhibit features life-sized red cutouts of men, women, and children that display plaques telling their stories.

The project visited the LRC Monday, Sept. 27 – Thursday, Sept. 30 to raise awareness for local victims of violence. Victims ranged from young children to the elderly, came from many socio-economic classes, and were abuse victims, law enforcement officers, and even, innocent bystanders such as A.J. Cantrell and Patsy Maye Cantrell, Depew, Okla. Scott Eizember murdered the Cantrell’s “because they lived across the street from the mother of [Eizember’s] estranged girlfriend.” Eizember used the couple’s home to watch his ex-girlfriend’s mother’s house. He was eventually convicted of their murders.

The traveling event is part of a national initiative that began in 1990 when women artists in Minnesota formed a coalition to “stop the silence.” Their goal was to bring attention to and reduce the number of domestic violence murders. The initial project culminated in 500 women silently marching to Minnesota’s capital steps with their cutouts.

The power of their message was not lost and in 1994, two of the projects supporters decided to take the initiative national. By September 1995, there were 800 “witnesses” in 17 states. Today, there are witnesses in every state with a goal to eventually reduce the number of annual domestic violence deaths to 0.

One of the best ways to put a stop to the violence is to be aware of the signs of possible abuse.

Is one of your friends a victim of domestic violence?
• She/he has unexplainable bruises
• She/he is moody, withdrawn or depressed
• She/he’s stopped seeing friends or has given up favorite activities
• Her/his boyfriend/girlfriend uses alcohol or drugs
• She/he has fallen behind in school
• She/he is suddenly hostile and secretive
• Her/his boyfriend/girlfriend is possessive and jealous of others, friends and family
• Her/his boyfriend/girlfriend keeps tabs on her/him
• She/he seems afraid of boyfriend/girlfriend and fears breaking up with him/her

Signs of Healthy Relationships
• Each person in the relationship has a truly separate identity; they each give and receive without losing their separateness.
• Although each person desires the other, each can survive without the other.
• Each person assumes responsibility for his or her own level of happiness and refrains from blaming the other if he or she is unhappy.
• Each is able to talk openly with the other about matters of significance.

• The two people in the relationship are able to have fun and play together; they enjoy doing things with each other. They also allow the other person to have friends and to do things with their friends separate from them.

• Both people respect the other’s right to say no to sexual activity.
• The two people are equal in the relationship.
• Each avoids manipulation, exploiting and using the other.
• Each shows some flexibility in role behavior.
• Each avoids assuming an attitude of ownership toward the other.
• They encourage each other to become all that they are capable of becoming.

Signs provided by the Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, help is available.

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE

District Attorney Victim Services 405-713-1600
YWCA Crisis Service DV Hotline 405-917-9922

Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault


  1. Debra Cantrell Wyatt says:

    A.J. and Patsy Cantrell were my parents. I am a Crime Victims Advocate and work for a District Attorney in NW Oklahoma. My sister was also murdered by her boyfriend in 2005, who then turned the gun on himself. She drifted in and out of abusive relationships, but was the strongest lady I ever knew!! I am available to speak about my families tragedies and the far reaching effects of domestic violence.
    My information is:
    Debra Wyatt office: 580-227-4665 and cell: 580-733-0372 I would love any and all opportuities of getting information out there!! Thank you.

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