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Giving voices to those silenced: Vigil being held in Shelburne Dec. 7

The impacts of domestic violence.
The impacts of domestic violence.

SHELBURNE, N.S. – A Dec. 7 vigil being held in Shelburne is aimed at giving a voice to all women who have been silenced by domestic violence and other types of violence.

The timing of the vigil, say organizers, is poignant – coinciding around the time that vigils were held throughout the country on Dec. 6 to commemorate the 14 women killed at École Polytechnique in Montreal in 1989.

And it comes at a time when much attention is being focused on sexual harassment and sexual abuse with many who have been victimized taking a stand and speaking out.

This vigil aims to bring hope and healing, and to call for an end to all forms of violence against women and girls.

“There’s been a lot of stuff in the news lately about people in Hollywood who have said so-and-so harassed me or sexually assaulted me. And then there was all of the #MeToo (on Twitter), so people are starting to feel a little more comfortable about coming out and talking about it,” says Linda MacLachlan, branch leader of the Mother’s Union, Parish of Christ Church in Shelburne, which is sponsoring the event.

MacLachlan believes one thing that will speak volumes at the vigil is the inclusion of Silent Witness Nova Scotia.

The Society for Silent Witness Nova Scotia is a group of organizations and individuals who work together to give back the voices to those who have lost their lives to domestic violence. The society’s website notes that between 1990 and 2016, there were 51 women in Nova Scotia who lost their lives to violence at the hands of their intimate partners.

The society has life-size red silhouettes representing the women whose lives were ended. Some of these silhouettes will be at the Shelburne vigil, including the one remembering and honouring Paula Gallant, who was strangled to death by her husband in December 2005, with her body left in the trunk of her car outside of the elementary school she taught at.

Each silhouette has a plaque on their chest that, through information provided by their families, describes a bit about them as a person. MacLachlan feels this will add a powerful element to the vigil.

“One of our fellow groups in French Village has had a Silent Witness vigil for the last two years and I connected with them and found out that I could borrow the Silent Witnesses that they had and have them here,” she says. “I think it will be quite impressive and kind of moving to have the forms of those women here with us.”

MacLachlan says they’ve held vigils before but on a smaller scale. The Thursday, Dec. 7 vigil will include information on gender-based violence, Silent Witness NS, and will include a candle lighting and prayers. It will take place from 3-4 p.m. at Atlantic House Park on Water Street in Shelburne, located between Shelburne Café and TLC Pharmasave.

“We’re also going to have a donation jar at the vigil. We’ll take donations and the amount will be split between Silent Witness Nova Scotia and Juniper House,” MacLachlan explains.

“We do support Juniper House on an annual basis,” MacLachlan says. “They told us that they could use Tim Hortons cards so what we do is we buy $100 worth of Tim Hortons cards, $5 each, and then they can give them to the ladies for if they want to do out and have coffee with their friends.”

Meanwhile, MacLachlan says they’re hoping for a large turnout at the vigil, to help make the voices of those silenced larger and louder.

Juniper House is a 15-bed shelter in Yarmouth that provides a safe refuge for women who have experienced violence and need a place for them and their children to stay. Juniper House also provides a 24-hour crisis line, supportive counseling, programs, advocacy, referrals and outreach services to women in Shelburne, Yarmouth and Digby counties.

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