Silhouettes speak for silent witnesses

Carina Snow

News Editor          

The “Silent Witness Exhibit” showcased life-size silhouettes to honor over 200 domestic violence victims in the LRC Sept. 23-26, and launched RSC into October’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month.


Graphic courtesy of

Graphic courtesy of

The first Domestic Violence Awareness Month was observed October 1987, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. It evolved from the first “Day of Unity” in 1981, which connected battered women’s advocates across the nation.


Kathy Carey, professor of family services and child development, is part of the Domestic Violence Prevention Committee, which plans events such as the “Silent Witness Exhibit,” for RSC. Carey said the exhibit is “very powerful,” and she encourages her students to read the “Silent Witness” stories each year.

RSC has its own silent witness apart from the display. About two years ago one of Carey’s students was the victim of domestic violence that ended in murder-suicide.  She “was murdered by her husband, and then her husband killed himself,” Carey said.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month addresses such incidences. “I think it reminds people that it is an issue, especially here in Oklahoma. It heightens awareness. I hope what it does, at least on this campus, is get people to think about this (domestic violence issue),” she said.

The “Silent Witness” national initiative began in 1990 in Minnesota when a group of women commemorated the lives of 26 domestic violence victims who were murdered in their state that year, according to

The women designed “26 free-standing, life-sized red wooden figures, each one bearing the name of a woman who once lived, worked, had neighbors, friends, family, children—whose life ended violently at the hands of a husband, ex-husband, partner, or acquaintance,” the site states. A twenty-seventh figure represented those uncounted women whose murders went unsolved.

These “Original 27 Witnesses” spurred a movement to end domestic violence murders, and according to the site, the goal of the initiative is to have “zero domestic murders by the year 2020.” The effort to reach this goal is being made in 50 states and 35 countries.

Abuse often starts early in life according to The site states that approximately 70 percent of college students say they have been sexually coerced, and “girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence – almost triple the national average.”

Ending domestic violence can be difficult because abusers often isolate and threaten their victim. Fear, concern for their children, lack of financial support, and extremely low self-esteem are among reasons they stay.

Statistics from the NCADV show that often “it takes at least seven times for a woman to leave before she can finally make the break. It’s very hard to leave,” Carey said.

Dr. Joanne Stafford, director of special services and student outreach, said although the vast majority of domestic violence victims are female, “we acknowledge that it does happen to males, but by and large it is a female issue.”

Helplines, organizations such as the YWCA, and resources like personal counseling services at RSC can help victims break the domestic violence cycle, and begin to cope and heal. “We need to give (victims) time, and support,” Carey said.



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