Wyoming Silent Witness Initiative honors victims of domestic violence

The annual Silent Witness Initiative Ceremony travels around Wyoming every October during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Published: Oct. 7, 2023 at 9:44 PM CDT
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GILLETTE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - Every October during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Wyoming Silent Witness Initiative comes to life. This traveling art project commemorates victims who have lost their lives to domestic violence.

Jessica Howard, the executive director of the Gillette Abuse Refuge Foundation (GARF), says, “People who experience domestic violence, they don’t talk about it. It’s not like you’re having that conversation with your friends, but we need to talk about it because it happens all the time. The more we talk about it, the more it becomes not so taboo and people will actually reach out and get help. They’re embarrassed, they don’t want to leave, so it is silence. We call them the silent witness because they have been murdered because of this.”

The Silent Witness Initiative creates life-size wooden silhouettes representing real victims of domestic violence in Wyoming. Silhouettes are then walked down a major street as a reminder of the reality of domestic violence in local communities. For many families, this is a time to remember and honor loved ones.

Howard says, “Some families will decorate their family members’ silhouettes. they’ll try to personalize it, put their jewelry on them, some have clothes, some have pictures, some just have sticky notes that say things like ‘I love you and miss you’ from their family. I think it’s a nice memorial thing that the families can come to every year.

Each silhouette features a plaque with victims names, ages, and life stories. Although these victims have been lost, they have not been forgotten.

GARF outreach coordinator, Shawna McWilliams, says, “The tagline is ‘remember my story, remember my name’, and we don’t want our victims to ever be forgotten. We don’t want people to forget what a problem domestic violence is in our state. This is just a really good visual of how real it really is.”

Domestic violence nonprofits are located in every county in Wyoming, and are there to help and provide support.

Resource list:

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233

Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

Strong Families Strong Wyoming

National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center

Wyoming Division of Victim Services