Cut-outs inform students about domestic abuse

A walker strides past a display put up as part of October’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Yudof Hall on Wednesday. Each cutout represents a different victim murdered in Minnesota in 2007 as a result of domestic violence.

Marija Majerle

A walker strides past a display put up as part of October’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Yudof Hall on Wednesday. Each cutout represents a different victim murdered in Minnesota in 2007 as a result of domestic violence.

Thirteen life-size cut-outs of human figures were placed around campus Wednesday as part of an Aurora Center display to kick off OctoberâÄôs Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The center provides help for people on campus involved in issues like relationship violence and sexual assault. Each âÄúsilent witnessâÄù was meant to represent a different Minnesota victim who died in 2007 as a result of domestic abuse injuries. The figures each had a victimâÄôs personal story attached to it. Last year, 22 women and eight children died, and ranged in age from infancy to 90 years. Three victims also fell into the family/friend category, meaning the victims werenâÄôt romantically involved with their abusers, said Jerie Smith , an Aurora Center volunteer coordinator. Twenty-four children were also left homeless due to the deaths, she said. Smith said she wished there could have been a silent witness for each of the victims, but there wasnâÄôt enough time to construct all of them. The cut-outs, made by a former Aurora Center employeeâÄôs husband, will circulate around the St. Paul campus and East and West banks throughout October. âÄúThey will be in certain locations for one-third of the month,âÄù Smith said. Yudof, Bailey and Comstock halls will have the figures for the first portion of October. Members also gave two figures to the athletics department. Although the University has incorporated silent witnesses into Domestic Violence Awareness Month for several years, Smith said, they were placed in Coffman in the past, and were only up for a few days rather than the full month. Reactions to the figures have been mixed, Bailey Hall desk attendant Kathrin Hahn said. âÄúWhen they first got here, all three were right up at the desk,âÄù Hahn said. âÄúIt was a little overwhelming.âÄù Hahn said after the three figures were separated and placed throughout the entry way, people were a bit more receptive. âÄúSome were quiet, some just walked away. But only a couple people have even recognized that they are actually for domestic abuse,âÄù Hahn said. âÄúThereâÄôs nothing around that explains what theyâÄôre for.âÄù Allison Hartke , an anthropology student and Bailey Hall resident, stopped to read the story placed on one of the silent witnesses. She said she thought the figures were a good way to inform people about the problem of domestic violence. âÄúWe need to be made aware of it if anythingâÄôs going to change,âÄù Hartke said. Roberta Gibbons , associate director at the Aurora Center, said women between the ages of 16 and 24 are more likely to experience domestic violence than any other age group. The silent witness program originally began in Minnesota in 1990 with 26 original wooden figures. A 27th witness was later added to represent all the uncounted victims of domestic abuse, and for those whose deaths had been improperly reported as âÄúaccidental.âÄù The silent witness program now operates nationwide, and more than 40 college campuses have gotten involved.