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Service mourns NW Ohio's domestic violence toll

Advocates push for awareness, stronger laws

  • Cheryl-Rucker

    Cheryl Rucker, speaks to the crowd at the Maumee United Methodist Church during the traveling Silent Witness Project, which represents women in northwest Ohio who were killed by domestic violence. Ms. Rucker's daughter Shynerra grant was among those recognized.

    The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
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  • Marce-Dupay

    Marce Dupay, center, lights a candle in memory of Brenda Gould, 46, who was murdered by her husband, at the service for northwest Ohio victims of domestic violence.

    The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
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Marce-Dupay

Marce Dupay, center, lights a candle in memory of Brenda Gould, 46, who was murdered by her husband, at the service for northwest Ohio victims of domestic violence.

The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
Enlarge | Buy This Image

Kathy Wangler, a 48-year-old accountant in Lima, Ohio, wore high heels every day and was known for her giggle and helping others.

Shynerra Grant, 17, an only child, was a bubbly cheerleader who had just graduated from Start High School in Toledo and planned to go to college.

Crystal Hunt, 39, was employed as a custodian at Toledo Building Services and co-workers noticed her good work ethic and how she cared for her two daughters.

Those were some of the stories of real women who fell victim to domestic violence in northwest Ohio over the past decade.

Last Wednesday, 50 women stood during the 11th annual unveiling of the Northwest Ohio Silent Witness Project and read their stories -- who the victims were, what their passions in life were, how their family remembered them, and then the brutal details of their murders.

"These women were mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends," said Megan Gerken, Silent Witness project coordinator. "We remember these women as more than another domestic violence statistic."

More than 150 people, including domestic abuse survivors, local activists, and students, attended the ceremony at Maumee United Methodist Church.

The night was not only for paying tribute to the victims, but also for advocates to push for more awareness on stopping domestic violence and strengthening laws against abusers.

In the darkened church, the group of readers stood next to 51 wooden silhouettes that represented each of the women killed by their boyfriends, husbands, or other loved ones and read their biographies. Some readers spoke in a flat voice, which made the details of the violent deaths sound more chilling, while others choked up with emotion or spat out the words angrily.

Cheryl-Rucker

Cheryl Rucker, speaks to the crowd at the Maumee United Methodist Church during the traveling Silent Witness Project, which represents women in northwest Ohio who were killed by domestic violence. Ms. Rucker's daughter Shynerra grant was among those recognized.

The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
Enlarge | Buy This Image

"It was almost a numbing effect, such a sad tale over and over again," said Laura Booher, one of the readers and a graduate assistant at Bowling Green State University's Women's Center, which sponsored the event.

Outside the chapel, a table lined with purple candles showed photographs of the dead -- one woman wearing a sports uniform and dangly hoop earrings, another grinning while holding balloons at Applebee's, a pretty girl with long, blonde hair.

After the stories were over, the ceremony became an open forum as people shared how domestic violence affected their lives or how they could try to stop it.

Karen Rossbach, a security guard from Swanton, said she never pictured herself as an abused wife. But about three years ago, just before her birthday, she had bruises on her face from her husband.

"I'm very thankful I am not one of the silhouettes up there," said Mrs. Rossbach, who left her 17-year marriage, filed for divorce, and remarried a "wonderful man" in February.

"I can actually stand up and say I have a great life. I talk about it all the time, whoever wants to listen. … I am a survivor. There is life after domestic violence."

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