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Silent Witness Display used to remember and educate

Silent Witness Display used to remember and educate

NORFOLK, Neb. – Silence can speak volumes when it comes to remembering victims of domestic violence.

The Upper Level of Union 73 provided evidence of that on Monday, Oct. 30, as Northeast Community College hosted the “Silent Witness Display” for the first time, in part to observe Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The display included life-size silhouettes of women from Northeast Nebraska whose lives have ended violently due to domestic violence. Shields across their chests displayed their stories, written by their family.

Bright Horizons offers a range of services for victims of domestic violence, including advocacy, support groups, shelter services, protection orders and criminal justice and legal advocacy.

Steph Ferrusca of Bright Horizons said a college campus is an appropriate place to make young people aware of the dangers of domestic violence.

“Not a lot of people like to speak out about it because they could be blinded by love. They tend to keep it hidden. When men are abused by their female partner, it is kind of embarrassing for them, so they like to keep it to themselves,” Ferrusca said.

Sometimes a young person might see something as a red flag in a relationship, but then they want to see the good in the person.

“They want to see the good over the negative,” Ferrusca said. “They have the mindset that ‘I can change him’ or ‘I can change her.’ ”

If a person is in an abusive relationship, statistics indicate it will not get better. About 70% of men who batter women also batter their children, making domestic violence the number 1 predictor of child abuse. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women – more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined.

Jessie Mandl of Bright Horizons said the rules of talking about domestic violence have changed over time. Issues like domestic violence and spousal rape weren’t talked about much 35 years ago. Now, people are more willing to come forward and ask for help. 

“Laws were much different back then,” Mandl said. “There wasn't much people could do because spousal rape just wasn't a thing. Because there is a widely held view that a man or woman surrenders consent upon entering a marriage, the law has been slow to criminalize this form of sexual assault. Things have changed, we want you to come forward. If that means going out to schools or businesses in our community and announcing that help is available, then we are going to do it. We want you to come forward. We obviously can’t stop it, but we can try our hardest to help prevent it.” 

If a person recognizes he or she is in an abusive relationship, Bright Horizons can help. While it is set up to help those who have been abused, someone who might recognize that he or she is the abuser will be referred to a place where the abuser can get help.

“Recognizing it and educating yourself is a huge first step,” Mandl said. “If you are trying to change yourself and know that you don’t want to hurt the person you love, get help.”

The display was sponsored by Bright Horizons and Active Minds, a student organization on campus.

Organizers said they weren’t sure what to expect since this was the first time they have had the display on campus, but they were pleased by the number of students who stopped to ask about it or stopped to read the stories of the women who were killed.

For any students who need help or want to talk, Steph Ferrusca’s office is on the Upper Level of Union 73. She also may be reached at or by calling the 24-hour help line at 877-379-3798. Services are free and confidential.


Silent Witness cutline
Students walking through Union 73 on Monday, Oct. 30, had an opportunity to learn about domestic violence through a Silent Witness Display.