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    On October 7th, during the First Friday Trolley Hop, I saw dead people. I am not a nine-year-old boy who hides under sheets and talks regularly with a psychologist. I am a rational adult woman who, along with 12,000 other people on Market Street that night, witnessed people wearing red full body spandex suits to represent the murdered victims of domestic abuse. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and The Center for Women and Families is raising awareness in Louisville.

    The Silent Witness Project is a national initiative that began in the 90’s when a group of women artists and writers came together in order to speak out against the growing number of women in Minnesota being murdered by their partners. They eventually formed the organization Arts Action Against Domestic Violence and created life-sized red wooden figures, each with a name of a victim, and called them Silent Witnesses. This is an effective awareness campaign and The Center for Women and Families have these statuettes on display year round at their facility. But this year, The Center went for a more direct and gripping campaign. Their Silent Witnesses were actual people that you couldn’t ignore and accidentally brush against as you passed by. These “live” Witnesses demanded attention and you couldn’t help but be confronted by what they wanted you to know.

    It was alarming and disturbing to see them standing quiet and eerily still while all of downtown was alive with the excitement of a Friday night. A simple black placard hung around their necks telling the heartbreaking story of the victim they represented.  There was “Agatha” a 23-year-old mother to an 11-month-old son and pregnant with her second child. Her husband strangled her to death and then strangled their baby.  There was “Janet” who at 25 was stabbed to death by her abusive boyfriend even though she applied for a protective order against him. “Julia” a 21-year-old newlywed moved into a hotel when her husband began to beat her. She was granted a protective order against him, but sadly, her husband found her and killed her anyway. Their presence was so compelling it was hard to ignore and yet hard to engage. What should you say? What can you do?

    Each of the Silent Witnesses were accompanied by a volunteer from the Center in order to answer any questions and encourage discussion on the issue of domestic violence. Some trolley hoppers stopped to read the victim stories, others felt uneasy and gave a quick glance before moving on, and some inquired about the public exhibit wanting to know more about the cause and how they could help.

    The Center wants you to know that “Love shouldn’t hurt” and they have made this slogan a downloadable poster that you can print and post to make others aware. You can find this on their website,  The Center has also compiled a list of books, movies and songs that address domestic violence in various ways. This resource list can be found at 60 locations across Kentuckiana including public libraries, bookstores, video stores, and music stores. Click here to view the resource list online.

    Also, Thursday In Black is October 27th. Thursdays in Black began thirty years ago by women in Argentina to raise awareness about the alarming number of women in that country that were disappearing and later being found raped and murdered. Join in the worldwide effort to raise awareness about sexual violence and intimate partner abuse by wearing all black clothing and make a point to tell others about your choice of dress on Oct. 27th. Click here if you would like a poster to distribute. You can change your Facebook profile pic on that day as well by visiting The Center for Women and Families Facebook page and downloading their Thursday In Black graphic. Like the page while you’re there to get current information on events and happenings

    The Center would like to feature the Silent Witnesses again for FAT Friday on October 28th. They are only limited by the willingness of volunteers. Go to the Center’s website to contact the staff about volunteering.

    The Center for Women and Families offers their services of counseling and shelter to anyone who has experienced or is experiencing intimate partner abuse or sexual assault.  They can be reached 24 hours a day by calling the toll-free crisis line: (877) 803-7577.

    photos: Courtesy of The Center for Women and Families

    Julie Gross's picture

    About Julie Gross

    I’m originally from Ohio, but have been a Louisvillian for half my life. I divide my time between hubby, 3 kids, too many pets, and the 930 Art Center. When I'm not, you'll find me running the trails in Cherokee or Jefferson Memorial Forest.

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