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Silent witness exhibit remembers women killed by domestic violence

Silent Witness 2022
Posted at 10:42 AM, Oct 27, 2022

HELENA — A display memorializing women killed by domestic violence in Montana will be on display at the Montana Law Enforcement Academy until Nov. 7 and the public is encouraged to visit the exhibit.

Montana’s Silent Witness display is made up of more than 100 plywood cutouts of a women’s shape, painted red and displaying a gold shield with each woman’s name and the circumstances of her death. Some of the figures also have a gold circle on the hip of the figure, which bears the names of children who also died in the same incident as their mother.

Almost a third of the figures are Native American women, said Vickie Amundson, who was a cofounder of the project. The exhibit is on display at the law enforcement academy in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness month this October.

The Friendship House is a haven in Helena for people experiencing domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. For Gina Boesdorfer, executive director of the Friendship House, October is a good time to not just work to understand the circumstances of domestic violence, but the way violence crops up in our everyday lives, she said.

“Is this creating a culture where people are thriving in safe and healthy relationships,” Boesdorfer said. “Or is this reinforcing violence?”

This month is also a good time to learn best practices about what to do when someone is confronted with a friend or loved one in a violent relationship, Boesdorfer said. The most important thing to remember is to believe the person and listen, maybe offer resources but people shouldn’t try to jump in and fix whatever the person is facing, she said.

“Some of those instincts that we have are more driven by maybe our own worry, love, discomfort, etc.,” Boesdorfer said. “And it’s not actually helpful to the person.”

The goal of Montana’s Silent Witness Initiative was to eliminate murder by domestic violence by 2010. The date was extended to 2020.

“And now we’ll have to extend it to 2030,” Amundson said.

Every time Amundson adds a new cutout to her display, she grieves, she said, and she hopes her work has helped to slow the number of people killed by domestic violence in Montana.

The public can visit the exhibit anytime between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday until Nov. 7 at the Montana Law Enforcement Academy, 2260 Sierra Road East in Helena.