Amanda Johnson Havre Daily News email@example.com
A candlelight vigil was held Tuesday evening for the victims of domestic violence homicide at the District 4 Human Resources Development Council’s Fireside Room. The event included the introduction of several programs instituted to combat the epidemic of partner/ family abuse and uplifting messages for survivors. The vigil began at 7 p.m. with an opening prayer read by Gayle Wheatly, liaison with Faith-based Ministerial Association, who presented a reading of the Faith Institute Proclamation, followed by guest speaker Linda Cady, Hill County coordinator of volunteer services presenting the Clothesline Project. “The Clothesline Project is a visual display that bears witness to the violence against women," Cady said. "During the public display, a clothesline is hung with shirts. Each shirt is decorated, to represent a particular woman’s experience, by the survivor herself or by someone who cares about her. We started with 31 shirts hung in Hyannis, Mass., in the fall of 1990. Since that time, projects have begun in communities all across the country and in other countries as well." The project is four-fold, she said: To bear witness to the survivors as well as the victims of the war against women; To help with the healing process for people who have lost a loved one or are survivors of this violence; To educate, document and raise society’s awareness of the extent of the problem of violence against women; and To provide a nationwide network of support, encouragement and information for other communities starting their own Clothesline Project. Victim/Witness Advocate Dena Rudio with the local Domestic Violence Program introduced the Silent Witness Project. “In 1990, the ad hoc group of women artists and writers, upset about the growing number of women in Minnesota being murdered by their partners or acquaintances, joined together with several other women’s organizations to from Arts Action Against Domestic Violence," Rudio said. "They felt an urgency to do something that would speak out against the escalating domestic violence in their state, something that would commemorate the lives of the 26 women whose lives had been lost in 1990 as a result of violence. After Much brainstorming, they decided to create 26 free-standing, life-sized red wooden figures, each one bearing the name of a woman who had once lived, worked, had neighbors, friends, family, children whose life ended violently at the hands of a husband, exhusband, partner or acquaintance." Rudio said a 27th figure was added to represent those uncounted women whose murders went unsolved or were erroneously ruled accidental. The organizers called the figures the Silent Witnesses (the original 27 witnesses). The Montana Silent Witness Initiative was established in 1999 and is an IRS 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. "Partnered after the National Silent Witness Initiative Inc., our goal is the elimination of murder by domestic violence in Montana by the year 2010,” Rudio said. Rudio then sang "Concrete Angel," a song written about a little girl who died from domestic violence. Following the song, the group lit their candles and headed outside to the entrance of HRDC where flags were hung in remembrance of women who have died from domestic violence. While outside, Wheatly gave the closing prayer and the group headed inside for cookies and punch. "If you know someone who has or is being affected by domestic violence don’t stay silent, speak up, go to the local HRDC office and ask to speak to someone regarding domestic violence," Rudio said. "If you don’t, they may be the next obituary you read about in the local paper." The local Domestic Violence hotline number is 265-2222. The office is located at 2229 5th Avenue inside HRDC.