“Silent Witness Initiative” gives voice to the voiceless, during domestic violence awareness month

PRINCETON, Illinois -- A local domestic abuse recovery center wants to change how people think about domestic violence, with a nationwide initiative that hits close to home.

Freedom House is displaying their exhibit of the Silent Witness Initiative during October's Domestic Violence Awareness Month at Soldiers and Sailors Park.

The display features nearly 20 red, life-sized silhouettes of women and children. Each represents a local victim who died because of domestic violence.

"(The display) is for the impact," says Amber Killian, a program manager at Freedom House. "It's to say that this happens in our counties."

In Illinois, there were nearly 43,000 reported survivors of domestic violence in 2018, according to the Illinois Coalition of Domestic Violence. Nationwide, one in four women and one in nine men experience domestic violence in their lifetime.

Killian says the national initiative, that started in Minnesota in 1990, is giving a voice to the voiceless. Each silhouette has a plaque detailing the story of their death.

"(Domestic violence is) often seen as silent, because it stays within the family or within the relationship." says Jen Johnson, a program manager at Freedom House. Victims don`t walk around with signs that say 'I'm being abused.'"

The women and children represented by these silhouettes are of all ages, from nine months to 79 years old.

"These are real women who once lived," Killian says.

The display has cases spanning around the last forty years, with the most recent silhouette dedicated in 2014. Freedom House plans to continue updating their collection, to highlight the importance and lethality of domestic violence.

"Every day we have new clients coming in," Killian says. "It's time to raise voices up and make the community aware so they can`t pretend its not happening here, because it is."

There is a candlelight vigil to honor these victims on October 9, 2019, at 6:30 p.m. The display will stay at the park until October 12th, 2019.

Freedom House has a variety of outreach events planned for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. For a full list, check out their DVAM event flier. 

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