By: Allee Feuerman
On Wednesday, Oct. 3, the Women’s Center of Greater Danbury hosted the “Silent Witness” exhibit in Western Connecticut State University’s Westside Campus Center. The event showcased visual representations of victims who have lost their lives to domestic violence in hopes to honor, remember and promote ambition for change.
Silhouette cutouts of women and men covered the tables, painted in red to represent the deceased victims in the local area, or in silver to represent students across the country who have died due to domestic violence. Attached to each cutout was the name of a real victim and his or her story.
WCSU students were encouraged to read the victims’ stories, like that of Lisa Malo, a Danbury resident who was killed in 1992 at the age of 25.
“She was a student at Henry Abbott Vocational-Technical School and was studying to be a Licensed Practical Nurse,” her cutout read. “She was engaged to a man whom she had met three months before she was murdered. He stabbed Lisa 16 times as they argued over the future fate of their unborn child.”
Or the story of Racheal Wiest, who was “a sophomore at Nimitz High School in Irving, TX.” According to her cutout, the 16-year-old was “an AP and A/B Honor Roll student and determined to become a Sooner at Oklahoma University. She was a country girl at heart and loved to dance. On May 25, 2019, Racheal met with her ex-boyfriend to discuss their relationship that ended over two weeks prior, after a year of dating. When she refused to have sex with him, she attempted to leave and he blocked her from leaving, strangled and killed her.”
Sharing these stories brings awareness to violence occurring in domestic adult relationships while also honoring the lives of these victims. The Silent Witness National Initiative has been educating the public in order to end domestic violence homicides since 1990. All 50 states and 23 countries have participated in the movement to acknowledge the men and women who die each year due to domestic violence.
Central to the mission of the Silent Witness National Initiative is the belief that every story needs to be heard and remembered. With the help of organizations like the Women’s Center and WCSU, these stories will not go untold.
Since 2007, WCSU has teamed up with the Women’s Center to provide “on-campus counseling and advocacy for dating violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and stalking.” The Women’s Center provides free, confidential counseling and advocacy, crisis intervention, prevention education and a 24-hour hotline for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
“It is important to engage the community and help people realize that things like domestic violence and sexual assault are happening all around us,” said Sydney Trezza, Director of Campus Counseling and Advocacy for the Women’s Center of Greater Danbury. “By acknowledging its presence we can then, as a community, begin to do things to prevent them from happening like believing survivors, calling out negative behaviors, and challenging victim-blaming or negative language.”
Trezza, a graduate of WCSU, earned her Masters of Science in Clinical Mental Health and has developed a passion for helping victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. “The hope, strength, and resilience I see in the individuals I work with is unlike anything else, and that makes me want to do everything I can to help people in these situations,” she said, adding, “the longer I work at the Women’s Center with victims and survivors the more passionate I become because I realize just how meaningful it is to support, validate, and believe survivors of abuse.”
The Women’s Center of Greater Danbury will host more events at WCSU throughout the semester in order to “shift the culture to one that is free from domestic, dating, and sexual violence,” said Trezza. This week, on Thursday, Oct. 10, as a continuation of The Silent Witness exhibit, the Women’s Center will host a candlelight vigil of remembrance in the Women’s Center Community Room, located at 2 West St. in Danbury, at 6 p.m. to honor victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse and their families.
“By hosting events like Silent Witness, the Clothesline Project, and so much more, we make our presence more known to students, which allows us to engage and get to know the community and allows students to get to know us,” Trezza said.
WCSU students are encouraged to utilize the services that the Women’s Center offers, either on campus or at their West Street location.
If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic violence or sexual assault, contact the Women’s Center of Greater Danbury at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also access their 24 hour hotlines listed below:
Sexual Assault hotline: 203-731-5204
Domestic Violence: 203-731-5206