Red life-sized cutouts of women who have died from domestic violence stood near the entrance of the student center. Plaques describing the events that ended the lives of the women were fixed to the figures’ torsos — a stark reminder of the events that unfolded.
On Oct. 28, Monadnock Center for Violence Prevention [MCVP] and the Counseling Center at Keene State College teamed up yet again to produce a display of the Silent Witness Project.
Forrest Seymour is the counselor and coordinator of Sexual Violence Prevention and Education for the Counseling Center at KSC and worked closely with MCVP for the Silent Witness event. “We use it as an educational opportunity to draw students in and educate [them] about the seriousness about domestic violence,” Seymour said. He explained that the Silent Witness Initiative is an effort to show people the effects of domestic violence and encourage students that it can be stopped.
The Silent Witness Initiative began in 1990 to commemorate individuals who have lost their lives due to domestic violence, according to Harmony Reid, education and community outreach coordinator for MCVP. Since October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Reid said her job was to “plan various events throughout the county to raise awareness about domestic violence.” She said she believes that “having a life-size cutout that is bright red is a stark reminder that domestic violence has lethal consequences.” According to the Silent Witness National Initiative [SWNI] website, Silent Witness “has been instrumental in the discovery and promotion of successful domestic violence reduction projects.”
The program was started by a group of women in Minnesota who were upset about the growing number of women being murdered by their partners or acquaintances, according to the SWNI website. SWNI stated that “after much brainstorming, the women began to design 26 free-standing, life-sized wooden figures, each one bearing the name of a woman whose life ended violently at the hands of a husband, ex-husband, partner or acquaintance.” Since then, all 50 states have produced their own Silent Witness exhibits and created new cutouts for those women killed in each state. According to Reid, “Each cutout is a separate dedication and each plaque on the cutouts explains the situation the woman was in and how she passed.”
According to Reid, MCVP rented the cutouts from the State Attorney General’s Office in Concord, New Hampshire and brought them to KSC. At the event, there was a representative from the crisis center made available because, “with a statistic like one-in-four having to experience domestic violence at some point in their lives, at least one individual is going to have some sort of reaction to it,” Reid said. She shared that in 2013, there were ten domestic-related homicides and of those ten, four were intimate-partner violence. “It’s easy to see a headline, but the Silent Witness Program gets individuals talking and wanting to know more,” Reid said.
According to Seymour, an American College Health Association survey was distributed throughout KSC in 2002, asking students’ experience with relationship violence and sexual assault.
“What we found was that twelve-percent of women at KSC reported that within twelve months, they had experienced some kind of sexual violence,” he said.
Seymour stated that there has been an ongoing effort on campus to bring awareness and prevent sexual violence, and Silent Witness is one of those programs.
Amber Huot [no relation to President Huot] is a first-year student at KSC and stopped by the student center to see the display.
“I had no idea what it was going to be like,” Huot stated. She said she felt that the Silent Witness Program was a reminder that domestic violence can happen to anyone. “It was actually scary,” Huot said.
First-year Haley Gardiner also got a chance to see the display.
“I thought it was dramatic, but a good dramatic. The cutouts were big and bright — it really stood out to me,” she said. Gardiner said she wished there were more flyers around campus about the event. “I didn’t even know it was happening,” she stated.
Seymour assured that KSC is working on better spreading the word throughout campus.
“We can’t reach out to students without the help of students,” Seymour said, as he explained that students are working closely with the counseling center to help reach out to KSC about preventative events such as Silent Witness.
MacKenzie Clarke can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org