The Silent Witness Project
The Silent Witness Project began as a U.S. national initiative to honour women killed by their partners in acts of domestic violence. In 1990, an ad hoc group of women artists and writers, upset about the growing number of women in Minnesota being murdered by their partners, joined with women from other women’s organizations to form The Arts Action Against Domestic Violence. They felt an urgency to do something to commemorate and honour the lives of 26 women whose had died in 1990 as a result of domestic violence.
They decided to create 26 free standing, life sized red wooden figures, each one bearing the name of a woman who once lived, worked in the community and whose life ended violently at the hands of her partner. A 27th figure was added to represent women whose murders went uncounted or unsolved. These wooden figures are called Silent Witnesses.
The Silent Witness Exhibit was officially launched on February 18, 1991, when more that 500 women marched single file, carrying the Witnesses, from a church, across the street to the Minnesota State Capitol Building. To date all 50 states, and several countries are participating in the project.
In November 2000, the Charlotte County Family Violence Committee collaborated with the Maine Silent Witness Project in a community education initiative for Family Violence Prevention Month (November). The Witnesses were brought to Charlotte County form Portland, Maine, and exhibited through out the county, as well as, in Saint John and Moncton, with a view to promoting awareness of domestic violence.
The November campaign was so successful that the Charlotte County Family Violence Committee (CCFVC) decided to bring the Silent Witness Initiative to New Brunswick- the first in Canada.
In order to promote and facilitate a province-wide Silent Witness project, the Charlotte County committee developed a collaborative partnership with the Muriel McQueen Ferguson Centre for Family Violence Research, the Muriel McQueen Fergusson Foundation and the Provincial Caring Partnerships Committee (PCPC). The project was underway and in October, 2001 the first two Witnesses were created in Charlotte County, bearing “Remember Me – Silent Witness” on the gold shield on the chest. They were displayed at the PCPC Conference in Moncton and the Coalition of Transition Houses Conference in St Andrews, in November 2001.
The New Brunswick project was officially launched at a reception at Old Government House in Fredericton on November 7, 2002.
The London Abused Women’s Centre started the first Ontario Silent Witness Project in 2007 to coincide with the agency’s 25th anniversary. The agency has 12 Silent Witnesses in its collection. The goal is to create a Silent Witness Project in every community across the Province.
The Silent Witness Project gives a voice to women and children killed by their intimate partners and fathers. Families involved in the project identify how it helps them with their healing when they write the memorial for their loved ones which is then prominently displayed on a plaque on the front of each of the blood red silhouettes.
The Silent Witness Project promotes hope and healing and engages the community in continuing to work to end violence and abuse against women and children.
The London Silent Witnesses have travelled to the home of former Governor General Michaëlle Jean, been part of a national Silent Witness collection at the world premier of the ballet Ghosts of Violence at the National Arts Centre and were present at the Canadian Conference on the Prevention of Domestic Homicides.
The London Silent Witness Project honours the following women
Deborah Dawn Devine
Yorn Mey Khin
Brenda Lee Chillingworth
One witness representing the women murdered in the December 6th Montreal Massacre
If you are interested in honouring a woman with a Silent Witness, please contact the London Abused Women’s Centre at 519-432-2204 or firstname.lastname@example.org