March to End Domestic Violence

Women, as well as men and children, from around the nation will gather in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 18 to call for solutions to domestic violence. The first "March to End Silence About Domestic Violence" had its origins in 1990 when a group of artists and writers in Minnesota developed "The Silent Witnesses," an art exhibit with 27 life-sized silhouettes to remember the women who had been killed that year by husbands, boyfriends or acquaintances in Minnesota.

Each figure was painted red and wore a breast plate with a brief story of how she was murdered.

Jane Zeller and Janet Hagbert first saw the exhibit in St. Paul, Minnesota, where 500 women marched to the State Capitol and the "witnesses" were displayed in the rotunda of the building. Zeller and Hagbert helped form the National Silent Witness Initiative and "The Silent Witnesses" moved to Washington in 1993 for a showing in the rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington D.C.

Sheila Wellstone, wife of Senator Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.), brought the exhibit to Washington to illustrate the need for passage of the "Violence Against Women Act" portion of the crime bill.

For the march on October 18, representatives from all 50 states will bring exhibits representing the murders committed there in any chosen year. The march will begin near the Washington Monument and proceed to the Capitol's west front, with entertainment and speakers at the beginning and ending points. Later, "Silent Witnesses" will be taken to the Capitol Reflecting Pool for the candlelight memorial.

"Hope and healing" is an aim of the four-day event, as well as the elimination of all domestic murders by 2010. "We're not 'man-haters' -- we don't want to imprison anybody," said Hagbert. "We're reaching out to everybody -- men, women and children." The event is also dedicated to spotlighting successful programs that are making a difference in communities throughout the country.

The National Mall will be filled with hundreds of imposing life-sized figures, (1,400 at last count). "We tried to show every kind of woman," said Zeller. "There's one with a hair style that might be African American, one that's very tall, and one that's very short." The figures come in three different shapes and range in height from 5'3" to 5'7". "You cannot look at them and not think of the women they represent," said Hagbert, remembering the first time she saw the red silhouettes. "We carry the witnesses, but really they carry us."

If you would like to become involved with the march, if your state has a successful domestic violence program you would like to share, or you would like a march T-shirt ($15), write Kellie Austin at The Silent Witness Initiative Program 9614 Dilstin Road, Silver Spring, MD 20903 or email For other information, call Kirsten Jennings (202)223-9729 ext. 102.

-- Ellen Murphy

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