I see it every day when I come to work. The poster with 46 pictures — some of individuals, some of moms and kids — of people who have died from domestic violence. It is an old poster now, I got it several years ago and the pictures are likely older than that. It is a compilation of victims of domestic violence whose surviving family members allowed their pictures to be published in the hope that it would have an impact, in the hope that they would not be forgotten, in the hope that people would see it and act to end domestic violence. I see it every day and it helps me remember why this work is so important and still so needed.
According to the most recent Fatality Report published by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, there were 102 domestic violence homicides in the commonwealth in 2016. Since Pennsylvania doesn’t record domestic violence crimes or deaths, the accounts have come from published reports, domestic violence programs and police reports. And we in Centre County are not immune. We have also lost members of our community to domestic violence.
October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, is a time to remember those victims. It is a time to remember the holes their deaths left in the lives of those who loved them, the children left behind, the parents devastated to know they couldn’t protect their child from harm, the friends who wonder, “Could I have done or said something to prevent this?” The statistics help us know the breadth of the problem, but it is the faces of those lost, the details of their lives that help us remember who they were. The faces and details help us remember that before they were victims, they were someone’s mother or father, someone’s child, someone’s friend. They were someone’s person and now they are gone.
Death is a painful thing under most circumstances, but a homicide, a murder, is a violent, wrenching, shock for which we are never prepared. The recent shooting in Las Vegas is a painful and terrible reminder of this fact. A murder is horrific in any circumstance, but when that murder is committed by someone who professed to love the one they’ve killed, by someone known and possibly loved by the survivors, the horror is magnified exponentially.
So this month, we remember and honor those whose lives were taken by domestic violence in Centre County. A traveling display, “An Empty Place at the Table,” based on the project created by the Women’s Resource Center in Scranton, will be at various places in Centre County throughout the month. The individual place settings around a dining table represent victims killed as a result of domestic violence in Centre County from 1998-2015. Behind each place setting is information, but no names out of respect for the families, of the victim. The display will be at the Super Fair of Centre County on Oct. 7, at the four YMCA’s of Centre County through October and at the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center on campus beginning Oct. 23.
It is important to remember, to grieve and to resolve to act. That is what the pictures on my door remind me every day. They remind me that there are people behind the statistics, people whose lives were important to those around them, people who were loved, people who should not — ever — be forgotten even by those of us who did not know them. They are ours now, too.
Anne K. Ard is the executive director of the Centre County Women’s Resource Center, 140 W. Nittany Ave., State College. Contact her at 238-7066 or at email@example.com. The CCWRC is a Centre County United Way Partner Agency.