The Silent Witness project consists of a traveling exhibit of life-size, free-standing, red silhouettes. Each silhouette represents a woman who was murdered by her intimate partner and whose partner has either been convicted of murder or both have died in a murder/suicide. Because these women no longer have a voice, the silhouettes are called the Silent Witnesses. Domestic violence is a major issue in our society and the mission of the Silent Witness Project envelops ideas of remembrance, awareness, and action against this violence. (http://silentwitnessmb.ca/)
The first time I attended a Silent Witness event in Winnipeg was in April 2014, at the West End Cultural Centre. This is a solemn event that you experience, not just observe. I felt incredibly overwhelmed by the sheer number of red silhouettes. Each had a name. Each had a birth date. Each had a death date. Each was remembered by either a family member or friend who laid a red rose at her feet. But her feet will never walk again. Her voice will never be heard again, forever silenced - because each met an untimely death at the hands of their intimate male partner.
When Debbie Schromeda spoke to the audience, my whole body tensed, and, - my heart pierced. Debbie’s daughter, Shannon Schromeda, was brutally murdered by her partner, in front of their 4-year old son, in April 2008. It was Shannon’s story that inspired my own journey as I read about her in the newspaper in February 2011. It was then that I decided to be more than just a spectator in this ugly social plague of intimate partner violence.
Since April 2014, when I first heard Debbie speak, I have heard her present at numerous events meant to expose the ugly realities of domestic violence. Debbie wants us all to become more aware of the signs of domestic abuse and like her, become vocal in offering safe planning and refuge to those who do not know where to go or where to turn.
This past spring, for the 4th time, I attended the Silent Witness event. Like many other women who attend this event, I am completely inspired by the women represented by the red silhouettes. We honour their sacred space in history as we become emboldened to speak out and advocate for opportunities to educate others about domestic and family violence prevention, as well as seek government, corporate, and individual donor support for the development of shelters and second stage housing.
The impacts of intimate partner violence reverberate on the individual, family members, friends, co-workers, and on community and societal levels. SHADE exists as a means to prevent other tragic senseless deaths, such as those represented by the red silhouettes, to make a difference in the lives of women and their children who have been impacted by domestic abuse and/or family violence.