Special Edition Newsletter: Sept. 8th, 2000
Update On Progress and Results During The Past Year
This is a special edition of the newsletter to update you briefly on our
progress in the last year (thanks to you) and to share the story I wrote for
the Results book of our journey from being victims to healers. I thought all
of this would inspire you for the October events that are so vital to our
Silent Witness Exhibits: 30 states have multiple exhibits. 7 countries have
Silent Witness exhibits now. 47 states held Silent Witness events last October. 17 new Silent Witness exhibits have been developed since Jan. 1,
2000. 20 countries receive our newsletter and have Silent Witness materials
with instructions for developing an exhibit.
Web Site: Our newly refurbished web site gets at least 13,000 hits a month
and that number is rising by the week. We were cited among the top 15% of
web sites recently.
Publications and Collaborations: Last August we had 235 subscribers to our
by-weekly newsletter. This August we had 625. This year we published Results, a book focusing on the results that have been seen across the
country in reducing domestic homicides. We are proud to be considered a
credible source of information and programs. We worked closely with the Junior Leagues International to help supply guides for their Leagues in
planning programming on the issues of domestic violence.
Results Projects: We have found three new Results Projects in the last eight
months for a total of nine. In August of 1998 there were 43 Results Projects
operating across the country. By August of 1999 there were 137. Now there
are almost 200 programs operating. See our web site for program
Steering Committee Meetings, Training Programs and State Visits: In the last
four years we have had Steering Committee Meetings in Minnesota, California,
Massachusetts, Texas and Missouri. States that have had or will have statewide training programs using the Results Projects are Wyoming, North
Carolina, Montana, Minnesota and Rhode Island. (This does not include the
multiple cities that have had individual Results Projects training or training for the Coordinated Community Response that I have no data
And I have recently visited the Silent Witness activists in Wyoming, Arizona, Texas, and Ohio. My plans are to visit Illinois, Rhode Island and
Montana in the next two months. Request are in from Mississippi, California
Domestic Homicide Reduction: Cities/States Reporting Reduced Domestic
Homicide: And the best news of all is that the domestic homicide rates for
women are dropping. In fact they dropped 25% in the years 1993-1997 with a
slight increase in 1998. 26 cities (250,000 or more) reported zero or one
domestic homicide of women by an intimate in one of these three years (1995,
1996 or 1997). Seven of those cities (250,000 or more) reported zero domestic homicides of women by intimates in one or two of those years.
Twelve states and the District of Columbia reported low rates of domestic
homicides of women (fewer than 2.5 per million population).
We have a lot to be thankful for and we need to be proud of the hard work we
have all done to make this world a safer place. Although we are not certain
why the domestic homicide rates have fallen we do know that the work we are
doing is making a difference in individual lives. We are all working together to be healers in this country and in the world.
So how did we get to be healers???
Victims to Healers
When a small group of artists and writers in Minnesota first developed the idea of the red life-sized figures we now call Silent Witnesses in the summer of 1990, we never imagined that what we were birthing would some day
become an international initiative. The project simply grew out of our anger, our powerless feelings and our compassion for the women whose lives
had been lost.
The Silent Witnesses started to take on a life of their own. We came to
experience the figures reverentially. The murdered women had become real to
us, their spirits touching ours. When we carried them from trucks to exhibit
spaces, we felt we were carrying their stories. When we "hugged" them in
order to fit them into their stands, we were reminded of how much love each
of them needed. They had come alive for us. But they were all dead. And that
is the reason for this project.
The Silent Witnesses took us on a journey.
One incredible thing we learned that had not been clear at the inception of
the project was how healing these Silent Witness figures would be for so
many of the survivors and the families of the victims. Nor were we aware of
how powerful these figures would be for public officials.
In one of many such comments, a survivor:
"Your Silent Witness creation has
had a great effect on opening me to surrendering my anonymity as a formerly
battered woman...it was the springboard, the catalyst for my going public
with my own truth."
And the mother of one of the Silent Witnesses wrote us:
"You may remember me. My 15 year-old daughter was murdered by her 17
year-old boyfriend while she and my family slept. She is now part of
the Silent Witness silhouettes here in my city and I am very grateful for
this program. I have had the opportunity to speak to kids from the local
high schools as well as other community groups. I never thought I could do
this but strength has come to me from my daughtersą spirit, to try to make
hers the last silhouette needed."
Many public officials have been involved with Silent Witness. They include
20 Attorneys General and several Governors. Three especially strong supporters are
Minnesota's former Attorney General Hubert Humphrey, Senator
Paul Wellstone, and his wife, Sheila Wellstone. Senator Wellstone describes
the power of the Witnesses at the national march when he said "I want you to
know that these Silent Witnesses in their own way speak more loudly and with
more eloquence and with more effect than any of the rest of us."
In the movement that the Silent Witness originators entered in 1990, most
of the people involved were victims of domestic abuse themselves. Our major
motivation was to see that no other women had the same experiences we had,
or to see that if they did, they would be able to leave the relationships.
The mentality of our initiative began to change when we realized that we
didnąt get very far by staying victims. We needed to get beyond our anger.
We began to see ourselves in a different way and we began to change internally. We started looking for programs that offered solutions and hope.
We saw people move beyond a victim role to a survivor role and from there to
a victor role by getting involved in hopeful, exciting, positive, results-oriented events and programs.
The word healing entered our initiative when we began to consider what it
would mean to actually solve the domestic violence problem. Putting all the
perpetrators in jail isn't enough, because when they get out they batter again. Building a fence down the middle of the country with men on one side
and women on the other wouldnąt work, because men and women still want to be
So we started using the word healing. It changed the mission of our initiative and it changed us forever. No longer were we victims or survivors
or even victors. We had to think of ourselves as healers if we were ever
going to solve this problem. Healers of ourselves, of women, of men, of children, of organizations, of churches, of synagogues, of courts--healers
everywhere. We became passionate about healing domestic violence. And our
passion generated hope.
Passion in Action
As a result of passionate people, our domestic violence initiative was transformed. Silent Witness is now filled with passionate people for whom
healing is the goal. There are so many acts of good will within our initiative that we call our participants angels.
And what do angels with passion look like in action? At one meeting we found
out that one stateąs coordinator didnąt have the funds to create an exhibit
using our figures. By the end of that meeting, several other states had donated one or two of their figures to her and she had her whole exhibit.
Another woman found out about a successful and healing treatment model for
perpetrators. It affected her so strongly she quit her job to dedicate her
life to this work, without knowing initially where her income would come from.
Our passionate approach has attracted the interest of many high school and
college students. One of our thrills was when one of our youngest collaborators, a 12 year-old girl, spoke out about her experience at the March to End the Silence in Washington in 1997.
" Soon it was time to march. We picked up our witness figures and set off.
The figure seemed very heavy in my arms. As we went farther and neared the
end, my witness (Angel had been her name) seemed lighter than when I'd
left, as though sheąd let out her deepest, most inner secret. I personally
can tell you that this was a very important and inspiring trip and I know
that it will influence my life in the future. I will not allow others to
control my life to the point of such despair. In addition, I will not be
abusive of others."
Our healing stance encouraged us to welcome men into our initiative and to
believe that batterers could and would change. At our March in Washington a
man who had been abusive in his marriage and who was now, with his wife, one
of our state coordinators, spoke poignantly on this issue of healing.
" I speak from experience. I was an abusive husband. Iąm not proud of that
fact. Iąm merely here to tell you what I know to be true. I may not be the
man that I could be, but I thank God every day I'm not the man I used to
be. And I know that if I continue on my road to recovery someday, working
with the Silent Witnesses I can become the man I should be."
With passion, compassion replaces anger. Generosity replaces competition.
The sharing of ideas and resources replaces turf battles. Hope replaces despair. And miracles occur.
These examples describe our passion. What about our tangible results? First
and foremost, people's lives are being transformed by their involvement in
the initiative. But more than that, once we focused on healing, the types ofsuccessful programs we discovered were nothing short of miraculous: A court
watch and a community criminal justice program that bring dignity to the
process and more responsibility to the system; a treatment model for perpetrators and survivors that is highly successful in healing them; and
prevention programs that change adolescent and adult behavior. Nine of these
results programs are outlined on our website.
All over the country, the domestic homicide rates for women are dropping, as
this site testifies. After 20 years of little change, there was a drop of
more than 400 (more than 25%) in four years. Are these all due to our efforts? Obviously not. But the momentum is shifting--in us and in the
When we work to heal and to restore, our motivation comes from a deeper place within us. That demands of us more reflection, courage, persistence
and passion. Having seen the effects of a healing stance, we know of its
power and we will keep working to ensure that we move steadily towards our
goal. Will you join us?
Janet O. Hagberg