Burlington Silent Witness Project remembers domestic abuse victims, gives hope to survivors
MOUNT HOLLY - It's painful, consoling, and challenging all at the same time...human silhouettes, representing domestic violence victims, helping others to escape the same situation.
The cutout figures in Burlington County's annual Silent Witness Project represent county residents whose lives ended at the hands of family members or loved ones. Today's ceremony at Rowan College at Burlington County's Mount Holly Center, part of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, featured a message of hope from a survivor.
The Silent Witness Project began in 1990 in Minnesota. Artists created a display of life-sized figures representing murdered domestic abuse victims. It has since become an observance on communities across America.
According to Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina, New Jersey recorded 61,659 domestic violence situaitons in 2015, a one-percent decline from the previous year. Forty-nine people died, seven more than in 2014.
Providence House, which serves domestic abuse victims and their children at no charge, co-sponsored the observance with the Prosecutor's Office, Burlington County Sheriff's Office, Rowan College at Burlington County, Soroptimist of Burlington County,and Servicios Latinos de Burlington County.
Abuse victims, or those who know of abuse situations, can call the Providence House domestic violence hotline, 1-877-871-7551.
"On this 10th anniversary of the Silent Witness Project in Burlington County, our hearts are heavy as we reflect on the many individuals who lost their lives to violence," said Mary Pettrow, the Associate Director of Providence House Domestic Violence Services. "But this event has two goals, so while we grieve for those who lost their lives to violence, we also join together in our commitment to prevent such tragedies from occurring in the future."
Angela Mateo Gonzalez, Executive Director of Servicios Latinos de Burlington County, added that domestic violence does not discriminate. "It is like a malignant disease which if not treated could destroy a life," she said. "I want to encourage victims to seek help and know that they are not alone. Even when everything appears dark and hopeless - there is a light at the end of the tunnel."
"Rowan College at Burlington County offers our support to anyone whose life has been affected by domestic violence, and joins the Silent Witness Project in honoring those who have tragically lost their lives," said RCBC Acting President Michael Cioce. "RCBC provides a number of resources to our community and we encourage victims or witnesses of abusive relationships to reach out to us at any time."
Coffina said that his investigators will continue their aggressive stance toward domestic violence offenders, and to keep encouraging victims to seek help.
"The Silent Witness Project reminds us that we not only have the ability, but also an obligation, to seek out those who are being victimized and say to them, 'There is help. We are here for you. You are not alone and you do not have to be abused any longer,'" Coffina said. "I am encouraged that as a society we have brought this scourge out from behind closed doors and into the public eye where we can declare that it is unacceptable, and where victims can seek help without shame."