Domestic Violence Awareness Month Marches Forward

Story Number: NNS101014-17Release Date: 10/14/2010 4:54:00 PM
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By Judy Lazarus, Naval Station Great Lakes Public Affairs

GREAT LAKES, Ill. (NNS) -- Domestic Violence Awareness Month kicked aboard Naval Station (NAVSTA) Great Lakes, Ill. Oct. 8, with a Silent Witness Initiative March from Fleet and Family Support Center to Bldg. 1.

Silhouette cutouts, which represent real-life cases of individuals who lost their lives violently at the hands of their spouses or domestic partners, were on display with Sailors reading accounts of each person's tragedy.

Capt. John Malfitano, NAVSTA Great Lakes commanding officer, speaking at the second annual event, referred to the author Neale Donald Walsch's "Conversation With God" series, where he wrote, "What you do in the time of your greatest trial can be your greatest triumph."

"This passage is certainly appropriate, and a message of hope for the many victims of domestic violence who have dealt with the pain and anguish, both physical and psychological, that go along with this horrible abuse," said Malfitano. "But not everyone who undergoes this violence survives to speak about it."

Referring to the silhouettes on display, Malfitano explained that, "These all have some military affiliation - representing either active duty members or their spouses who were murdered by someone they loved and trusted."

NAVSTA Great Lakes and its tenant commands experienced 97 reported incidents of domestic violence in fiscal year 2010, up from 88 in fiscal year 2009, Malfitano said.

He emphasized that there is help for those affected by domestic violence.

"The family advocacy program, available through the Fleet and Family Support Center, is charged with helping military families to eliminate domestic violence through education and counseling," Malfitano said. "It is up to each of us to actively commit ourselves to the eradication of domestic abuse."

Malfitano expressed appreciation to Sharon Mahaffey, FFSC program director, Navy Region Midwest, and her "extraordinarily dedicated professionals," including Janis Brown, Erin Brzezinski, and Catherine Loisel.

"The purpose of the Silent Witness March, and presenting the stories of military-related domestic violence fatalities, is to highlight the seriousness of this behavior, and to encourage everyone to get involved rather than assuming it's none of their business," said Mahaffey. "The march itself is silent to underscore the fact that deceased victims have no voice of their own, and that the rest of us must speak for them and future victims. We use a whistle blowing vigil to help people understand the need to 'blow the whistle' on domestic violence, to report it to the authorities on behalf of the victims."

"When Domestic Violence Victim Advocates became part of the Family Advocacy Program in 1995, one of the specific tasks was to develop programs which brought awareness to the military community about domestic violence," said Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate Janis Brown. "We created and exhibited the silent witness statues and had our first Silent Witness Initiative March in order to promote DoD's policy of 'zero tolerance,' and to encourage recognition of how fatal and destructive abuse is to the military family without intervention."

The concept of Domestic Violence Awareness Month began as a "Day of Unity" in October 1981, and soon after evolved into an entire week. In 1987 the first monthly observance took place. Two years later Congress passed a law officially designating October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

For more news from Commander, Navy Region Midwest/Naval Station Great Lakes, visit

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