By Amy Rasdall, [email protected]
October 10, 2021 — On Saturday morning, October 9, families, community members, and organizers filtered into the theater at Western Wyoming Community College for what would become the first Wyoming State Silent Witness Ceremony to take place in Sweetwater County.
The National Silent Witness Initiative began in 1990 in Minnesota, when a group of women artists and writers joined together with other organizations to form Arts Action Against Domestic Violence. They designed life-sized red wooden figures, each representing a victim of domestic violence. As of 1997, all 50 states have adopted the Silent Witness Initiative. Wyoming held its first ceremony and unveiled an exhibit at the State Capitol on February 28, 1997.
As this year’s ceremony began, Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Director Kristen Barton Schwartz, along with Director of the Division of Victims Services Cara Boyle Chambers, read the history of the Silent Witness. The Silent Witness Memorial Exhibit travels to a different county in Wyoming each year.
Lynnette Grey Bull was this year’s keynote speaker, who gave a powerful – and very personal – speech of how and why she became the woman she is today. Lynnette was a trainer for Amber Alert, has worked nationally with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault and is a mentor as well. She told a piece of her story while also stating that over fifty percent of indigenous women are assaulted each year; with over 500 tribes in the United States, only 58 of them have domestic violence shelters. Lynnette works with the State of Wyoming and with its indigenous people, hoping to increase the number of shelters and spread awareness of domestic violence.
Brandy Chubb performed a musical number, and Emma Rosales read the Silent Witness Pledge halfway through the ceremony. Schwartz and Chambers then introduced two new silhouettes and one badge and retired eight silhouettes; Whitney Nicole from Rock Springs, and Deedra Strauch from Torrington, were the two silhouettes added this year.
Every victim’s name on the silhouettes was then announced in a role call, somberly recited by Rock Springs’s Chief of Police Dwane Pacheco, Green River’s Chief of Police Tom Jarvie, and Sweetwater County Sheriff John Grossnickle. YWCA Executive Director Melinda Bass closed the ceremony, asking audience members to talk about domestic violence and learn more about what they can do to take a stand. “We need to have these conversations,” said Baas.
For more information about the Silent Witness Initiative, how you can support locally in Sweetwater County, or if you are or know someone who is a victim of Domestic Violence, contact the YWCA of Sweetwater County at (307) 352-6635, or visit their website at www.ywcasweetwater.org. They are located at 1035 Jackson Street in Rock Springs, and can also be found on social media.
If you or someone you know is a victim and needs assistance, call the 24-hour Crisis Line at (307) 352-1030.