MLEA Hosts Silent Witness Exhibit
In observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Montana Law Enforcement Academy (MLEA) is host to the Montana Silent Witness exhibit until October 23. The public is invited to MLEA, located at 2260 Sierra Road East in Helena, to see the exhibit between 8:00 am – 5:00 pm. Masks are required at all times on campus.
The Silent Witness display is comprised of 95 red wooden silhouettes of female victims. Attached to each silhouette is a gold shield memorializing a woman killed during a domestic violence incident in Montana. Children who died with their mothers are also represented on the shields. This year, MLEA partnered with Montana’s Veterans Administration Health Care System to increase public awareness by sharing ten of the silhouettes, which are displayed indoors at Fort Harrison Medical Center.
“Last year, Montana’s law enforcement officers responded to more than 4,000 cases of domestic violence statewide. Tragically, that means a Montanan is beaten, abused, or strangled by a partner or family member every 2.5 hours,” Attorney General Tim Fox said. “It’s important for anyone experiencing violence at home to know there are community resources available, and to reach out without delay. I ask all Montanans to continue to work diligently during these unprecedented times to keep domestic violence victims safe and hold offenders accountable,” Fox added.
According to the 2019 Montana Domestic Violence Fatality Review Commission report, between 2000 – 2018, 200 Montanans died as a result of domestic violence. Firearms continue to be the most frequently used weapon in these homicides (72%), and 74% of the perpetrators were male.
During the 2017 legislative session, the Montana Department of Justice drafted Senate Bill 153 in concert with the Yellowstone County Attorney’s Office. The new law gives law enforcement and prosecutors the tools they need to address serial domestic violence in the state, establishing a felony offense of strangulation. Montana’s old law did not distinguish strangulation from other crimes of assault.
The Montana Silent Witness Initiative, established in 1999, aims to promote successful community-based domestic violence reduction efforts in order to reach zero domestic murders. There are similar projects in all 50 states and in 23 countries.