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Silent witnesses have stories told

Victims of domestic violence speak out at WECC event

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Seventeen red, life-sized wooden silhouettes representing women murdered by a partner stood in a curved line during the Silent Witness Project Memorial at the West End Cultural Centre last Wednesday.

The noon hour event, presented by the multi-agency Family Violence Consortium of Manitoba, sought to raise awareness of domestic violence and the services available for those affected.

The 17 silhouettes, flanked by two RCMP officers, each bore a woman’s name and the date of her lifespan etched on a plaque.

An 18th figure stood apart from the rest - next to a table with tissues and roses, and a microphone stand.

On it were the words "remember me," and at the microphone several people who knew and loved some of the women represented behind them did just that to about 100 people attending.

"Here she is being represented, and has a voice in me, her mother," said Debbie Scromeda, whose daughter Shannon Rae Scromeda was murdered in 2008 by a live-in partner.

"We need to make people, and the governments, aware of how important these silhouettes are… they represent women whose voices may be hushed, but they stand tall."

Tara Creighton spoke of her sister, Jennifer Creighton, killed by her boyfriend in their home in 2002.

She detailed a history of abuse Jennifer suffered at the hands of her killer before her death, and railed against a too-lenient justice system and a media inclined to rehash details long after the crime.

Her sister’s killer, Leslie Henry, got full parole in 2012.

She said domestic abuse is a gradual process that begins with isolation from family and a picking away of self-esteem.

"It’s often shrouded in secrecy and humiliation," Creighton said, reiterating the need for people to speak out.

Her sister went back to her killer after a beating, she said, believing him when he said he wouldn’t hurt her again.

"She was wrong, he did hurt her again."

She said she hoped her story would motivate women mired in domestic violence to walk away before becoming a statistic.

"Please don’t delude yourself into thinking he’ll change."

Kirkfield Park MLA Sharon Blady did walk away.

She told the crowd the first time her ex-husband "did something to me" was the day after she won an election.

"I was too afraid to call the police. I understand the fear that women feel. I understand what it takes to make that call," Blady said.

Blady said those sharing stories of their murdered family were helping prevent "future tragedies" by breaking a silence that surrounds domestic violence.

"Thank you for keeping alive the memory of women who were taken from us far too soon, before they were able to share all of their gifts with us," she said.

A rose was placed at each silhouette as Glenda Dean, executive director of the Alpha House residential shelter, called out the women’s names.

"These women no longer have a voice and are called the silent witnesses, and today we remember you," Dean said.

As part of the memorial, the Sisler High School Dancers performed to k.d. lang’s rendition of Hallelujah and Anna Katsina Hull performed I Stand in the Rain.

A pamphlet given out listed more than 35 agencies in the province serving victims of domestic violence, and a toll free number for the Manitoba domestic violence crisis phone line as 1-877-977-0007.

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