Remembrance gives voice to victims of domestic violence

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published October 14, 2015

 Wooden cutouts depict the lives of three confirmed victims who died of domestic violence — Jane Bashara, Thomas Mendenhall and Daryne Gailey — at the Silent Witness Commemoration Service at Beaumont Hospital, Troy, Oct. 8.

Wooden cutouts depict the lives of three confirmed victims who died of domestic violence — Jane Bashara, Thomas Mendenhall and Daryne Gailey — at the Silent Witness Commemoration Service at Beaumont Hospital, Troy, Oct. 8.

Photo by Terry Oparka

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As a victim of domestic violence, Kelly Mays, 40, said she felt she had no voice and that she wasn’t beautiful.

She said poetry helped her to find her voice and reassure other domestic violence survivors that there was help for them to leave dangerous situations. 

Mays, a therapist with Starfish Family Services, is currently pursuing her doctorate in counseling from Walden University. She was the keynote speaker at a ceremony held at Beaumont Hospital, Troy, to honor victims of domestic violence.

She has volunteered with the Haven violence shelter’s Survivor Speaker Bureau for two years and has competed in poetry slams for 20 years, most recently at the 2015 Rustbelt Regional Poetry Slam competition in June in Rockford, Illinois, where she placed fourth out of 20 teams.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in every three women and one in four men in the U.S. will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.

The group’s mission, according to its website, is to create a culture where domestic violence is not tolerated and where society empowers victims and survivors, and holds abusers accountable.

Troy Mayor Dane Slater, Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor and Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett read out the names of the 25 victims of domestic violence who lost their lives in Michigan over the last year at the Silent Witness Remembrance Service Oct. 8 at Beaumont Hospital, Troy, to kick off National Domestic Violence Awareness month in October.

Nancy Susick, president of Beaumont Hospital, Troy, explained that artists and writers in Minnesota began the Silent Witness Remembrance program in 1990 and depicted the 26 people who had lost their lives to domestic violence in the state that year with life-size outlines.

“We deal with it so frequently,” Susick said of domestic violence. “The remembrance is still so needed. They deserve to be remembered.”

“During the 30 minutes we spend together, 200 women in this country will suffer abuse at the hands of someone they loved and trusted,” said Jack Poma, administrative director of nursing services at Beaumont Hospital, Troy.

Confirmed victims of domestic violence whose names were read included Jane Bashara, 56, of Grosse Pointe Park; Brigita Karamatic, 44, of Sterling Heights; Hattie Ann Marty, 78, of Macomb Township; and Ramsay Scrivo, 32, of St. Clair Shores.

This is the 15th annual Silent Witness Remembrance Service that Beaumont Hospital, Troy, has hosted.

“I want to be a healer and offer a voice to those who have lost theirs,” Mays said, adding that she uses poetry as a vehicle for healing because the “feelings are real and honest.”

She has two daughters, ages 6 and 18. She performed three of her poems during the service where she recounted how, in the past, she was afraid to throw away her scarves, which she wore to hide her abuse.

“Writing is the most raw moment when you can be most honest with yourself,” Mays said, noting that she encourages survivors who cannot talk about their experiences to write about them. “You get raw, real moments.”

After every reading she gives to survivors, she said, someone will tell her, “I felt everything you’re saying.”

Her daughters are doing well, she said. Her 6-year-old is a cheerleader and her 18-year-old is studying to be a pharmacist.

Mays is getting married next month to a man she described as a “great guy,” who makes a great effort to understand what triggers survivors’ post traumatic stress disorder, such as loud voices, in May’s case.

She said her fiance never raises his voice to her, even when they disagree.

“My friends say, ‘That was an argument?’” Mays said.

Donations of items, such as toiletries and cellphones, will be collected throughout October at Beaumont Hospital, Troy, and the Beaumont Medical Center in Sterling Heights. They will be distributed to two domestic violence shelters — Haven in Oakland County and Turning Point in Macomb County — throughout the month.

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