The Oct. 19 Silent Witness ceremony at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital featured Silent Witness figures, human-sized red wooden silhouettes of victims, on display in the atrium.

The Oct. 19 Silent Witness ceremony at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital featured Silent Witness figures, human-sized red wooden silhouettes of victims, on display in the atrium.

Photo by Donna Agusti


Silent Witness event at West Bloomfield hospital spreads message of hope

By: Sherri Kolade | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published November 1, 2018

 Henry Ford West Bloomfield Nurse Manager Heidi Winkler carries a rose in remembrance of the victims during the event.

Henry Ford West Bloomfield Nurse Manager Heidi Winkler carries a rose in remembrance of the victims during the event.

Photo by Donna Agusti

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WEST BLOOMFIELD — A Silent Witness ceremony at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital did not keep quiet Oct. 19.

Domestic violence victims were remembered at the hospital as community members, hospital officials, law enforcement personnel and others gathered for the event, held during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This year’s theme was “Plant a Seed to Harvest Change.”

The service was held in the hospital’s Ravitz Foundation Main Atrium, and it honored victims from Michigan who died during the past two years. The event also celebrated survivors.

The event featured Silent Witness figures, human-sized red wooden silhouettes of victims — a woman, child or man — were on display in the atrium, according to a press release.

The names of several Michigan victims of domestic violence were read as a bell was rung. An additional bell rang to remember the other countless victims.

Trish Klassa — chairperson of the committee that sponsors the Silent Witness ceremony and a clinical nurse specialist for the Birthing Center at Henry Ford West Bloomfield — said that the fifth annual event at the hospital got the word out.

“It started very small,” she said, adding that it is important for the hospital to hold the Silent Witness ceremony, and to place resources in employee and patient bathrooms, “so patients can see kind of what abuse looks like.”

A network of volunteers reaches out to schools, police and fire departments, and legislators to promote the Silent Witness program. “The committee has grown in size, kind of like throwing pebbles on the water and the ripples go out as we obtain more members (from different disciplines).”

Klassa said that she has been passionate about domestic partner violence and sexual assault prevention for over 25 years.

“Often, domestic violence and intimate partner violence are used interchangeably, so we’re not talking about child abuse, we’re not talking about two roommates quarreling. ... We’re talking about two people in a relationship.”

She said that intimate partner violence and domestic violence are often self-reported.

“We have to know it is even more prevalent,” she said. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that between a quarter and a third of women have been physically and sexually assaulted by partners, or stalked by former partners at some point in their life.

She said that somewhere between 1 in 7 and 1 in 11 women have reported some sort of violence in their life.

Violence from someone they know is the leading cause of nonfatal injury in women ages 15-44, Klassa said.

“It’s more common than rapes, auto accidents and muggings combined — it’s all around us,” she said.

According to a press release, the goal of the Silent Witness National Initiative is zero victims by 2020.

Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital; HAVEN of Oakland County; the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nursing; Lynch & Sons Funeral Directors; and Take Root Dance Co. participated in the Silent Witness event.

Averett Robey, the director of prevention education at HAVEN, said the partnership with Henry Ford West Bloomfield is important.

“They work really diligently to do their Silent Witness event. We also work with them to coordinate an extensive training program,” he said, adding that HAVEN does professional training with hospital staff.

“We work with health care providers to help recognize when strangulation might be present. We can also help direct them to additional medical needs, and that is a relatively new thing.”

Robey said that over the past couple of years, Michigan law has changed to make strangulation a felony.

“A lot of this research is brand new, and getting folks not only in our health care system but in law enforcement … all across the system to learn the strategies to recognize it and then respond appropriately,” he said.

Every year, roughly 20,000 people, or about 54 people daily, contact HAVEN of Oakland County to get help from sexual assault or domestic violence.

The Silent Witness event also raises money, some of which goes to HAVEN, Robey said.

“(They) really work within West Bloomfield to bring everybody together and raise awareness, and how do we commemorate these lives and how do we build community responses to stop the homicides?” he said.

A group of female artists and writers in Minnesota started the Silent Witness National Initiative in 1990.

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