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A voice for the silenced

Silent Witness Project Memorial held at the WAG April 9

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Glenda Dean, executive director of Alpha House and Silent Witness Project Memorial committee member, said the event will be moving and eye-opening.

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Glenda Dean, executive director of Alpha House and Silent Witness Project Memorial committee member, said the event will be moving and eye-opening. Photo Store

To represent those who can’t speak for themselves, a moving memorial will stand for them April 9 at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

"The Silent Witness Project is an exhibit honouring women whose lives have ended due to domestic violence," said Glenda Dean executive director of Alpha House and a Silent Witness Project Memorial committee board member.

For an eighth year, 18 life-sized "silent witnesses" will stand and represent women who were murdered by their partners and whose partners have been convicted of the murder, or to represent cases where both the woman and her partner died in a murder/suicide in Manitoba.

"So we have created these silhouettes and they are life-sized, free-standing, red, wooden silhouettes," Dean said. "Each silhouette has a plaque with the woman’s name on it."

Alpha House provides protective short-term and long-term living in a confidential location for women and their families leaving abuse. It is also a member of The Family Violence Consortium of Manitoba, which is presenting the memorial, and includes 35 provincially funded organizations to help Manitoba families including The Laurel Centre Inc. in Osborne Village.

Dean said the last silhouette in the group is the "unknown silhouette" called Remember Me.

"It asks us to remember very women who has been murdered whose murder remains unsolved or the case is before the court, or whose murder was not recognized as a homicide," Dean said.
"For every women who takes their own life to escape the cycle of violence, for our stolen sisters, and for every women who walks among us who lives in fear for her life."

Dean said the more moving part of the memorial is the connection to the families. All the women remembered through silhouettes are done so with the permission of family members.
"The families are very much a part of this process and very much part of the project," Dean said.

Three families will also be speaking at the event about the loss of their daughters, sisters, granddaughters, and mothers.

"It’s tough for the families but it also shows us resiliency. We see a woman has been murdered and we are sad about that but we don’t realize the impact on children that are remaining, how that impacts the school system, how that impacts the medical system, how that impacts the justice system, and on, and on, and on," Dean said.

"The price tag is huge," she added. "The impact for children doesn’t go away, it’s always with them."

Dean said the project is to promote positive change and to get people talking.

"So for women who are listening, who are participating, they are realizing ‘There is something I can do about this, I can get out of this situation, there are resources I can reach out, I can get out,’" Dean said. "That is the change we are talking about."

Though the silhouettes are of women, men are invited to attend and remember.

"Troy Westwood is one of our feature speakers," Dean said. "Part of what he is going to talk about is the role of society in particular (for) men. We’re all in this together. This is no longer just a women’s issue."

Everyone is welcome to the memorial hosted at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (300 Memorial Blvd.) from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. with a light lunch to follow. Funding for the event is provided by the federal government’s National Victims of Crime Awareness Week, which is recognized April 6 to 12.


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