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"Empty Place at the Table" exhibit returned to the Montana Capitol which honored crime victims and survivors

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Posted at 12:48 PM, Mar 23, 2023

HELENA — On Wednesday, crime victims and family members gathered in Helena for an event to showcase the trauma that violent crime can have.

Three tables were set around the Montana State Capitol rotunda with 11 place settings, each representing a loved one lost to a violent crime, or someone living through the aftermath of one.

The Montana Department of Corrections Victim Services Program organized the "Empty Place at the Table" exhibit.

Victims or their family members placed personal items at the table, as a way to show the loss of a person or a part of oneself as a result of a crime.

Sheree Talksabout, the Victim Liaison at the Montana Department of Corrections in Missoula, says that this can be an important part of the healing process.

"Many people don't fully understand that there's still trauma, that there's still healing to do just because that crime occurred and conviction is over with. Doesn't mean that people aren't experiencing trauma consistently. So it's nice to have that awareness piece," said Talksabout.

This is Talksabout's second year helping run the Empty Place at the Table exhibit, she shared with me an experience she had with an individual this year that really impacted her.

"We do have one individual that has two different place settings. She has one from when she was a child to the re-trauma that she experienced as an adult as well. And we've seen a lot of people really resonate with that story with her victimization. So it's been it's pretty even it's been really eye-opening," said Talksabout.

Talksabout says that the empty place at the table is a powerful way for victims to have their stories told, and heard.

"These are intimate pieces of those individuals' lives. It makes it real. So it's not just a statue. It's not just a display setting. It's what these people actually had in their lives and shows that they were people and they had families and they are still loved," said Talksabout.

The three-day exhibit was up in the Capitol rotunda from Monday until Wednesday.