On Saturday, Alexandria’s Domestic Violence Intervention Project will hold a candlelight vigil in Market Square to launch Domestic Violence Awareness Month and to honor 16 women in the area who have died as a result of domestic violence since 1991.
The vigil is planned with the help of Silent Witness, a national initiative that works to raise awareness about domestic abuse. The centerpiece of the event will be 17 life-size wooden silhouettes painted red. The 17th statue symbolizes the “unknown victim” and represents those who have not come forward, said Tania Weaver, 28, the domestic violence intervention specialist for the Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.
“The red is intended to represent blood and unite the figures,” she said. “Domestic violence can occur among any race, religion or sexual orientation.”
There will be a private viewing for the families and friends of victims from 6 to 7 p.m. The public program will begin with an address by Claire Dunn, division chief for sexual and domestic violence advocacy programs in Alexandria.
Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney S. Randolph Sengel will also speak, along with a woman who lost her daughter to domestic violence.
Weaver said speakers will talk about domestic violence prevention programs and resources, and the names of the 16 victims will be read aloud.
A single silhouette statue will be placed in Market Square earlier in the day at 1 p.m. The city’s Domestic Violence Intervention Project will also have a table in the square, with volunteers available to chat about prevention resources.
The Alexandria program is part of the Silent Witness Project, a national effort that began in Minnesota in 1991.
After 26 Minnesota women died as a result of domestic violence in 1990, a group of artists and writers created 26 life-size red wooden statues in commemoration, with a 27th added to represent the unknown victim. In 1994, after a Silent Witness exhibit in that state, two women decided to form a national initiative with a goal of zero domestic murders by 2010.
By 1995, 800 Silent Witness statues had been created in 17 states. Today, all 50 states and 20 other countries participate. Alexandria joined in 2003 and had 12 statues. Since then, four have been added.
“Ultimately, we’re hoping it will draw community awareness to domestic violence and help people feel more open about speaking out if they are a victim,” Weaver said about the service.
Saturday’s vigil will be free and open to the public starting at 7 p.m.
For information about Alexandria’s Domestic Violence Intervention Project, visit alexandriava.gov/domesticviolence. For information about Silent Witness, visit www.