ROCK SPRINGS — YWCA of Sweetwater County is hosting the 2021 Wyoming State Silent Witness Ceremony this year and is encouraging individuals to spread awareness, educate themselves, and remember those who have lost their life because of domestic violence.
Earlier this week, YWCA Executive Director Melinda Baas spoke to the Rock Springs City Council about the upcoming silent witness event and Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
“This year, we are especially honored, because we are going to be able to host the silent witness initiative,” Baas said.
The silent witness initiative, which was started in 1997, recognizes those who have been killed through domestic violence in every county in Wyoming. In the past, each county would bring their list to the Capitol for a ceremony. Now, the ceremony takes place in different counties throughout the state, Baas explained.
The Silent Witness exhibit is a traveling memorial honoring adults and children who were murdered in Wyoming as a result of domestic violence. The exhibit is made up of life-size red silhouettes, each representing a person who once lived, had neighbors, friends and family- whose life ended violently at the hands of someone claiming to have loved them.
Baas said Sweetwater County chose to host the ceremony this year and it will take place Saturday, October 9, at 10 a.m. at Western Wyoming Community College.
The ceremony will consist of multiple speakers, a silent witness pledge, introductions and retirements of silhouettes, and a procession. More than 100 names of those who lost their lives to domestic violence will be read, Baas said.
Two new Sweetwater County residents will be inducted onto that list, one of which is Whitney Sewell, Baas said.
Sewell, 29, died tragically in Rock Springs on December 16, 2019, from a gunshot wound as a result of homicide. Her husband, Hunter Sewell, 26, also died on December 16, 2019, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Baas said they will also have Lynnette Grey Bull attending to talk about missing and murdered indigenous women. She said that is another issue in this state that is often overlooked. There are hundreds of indigenous women who are missing or have been murdered in Wyoming.
During the meeting, Mayor Tim Kaumo proclaimed October as Domestic Violence Awareness month, which has been taking place since the 1990s. Baas said Sweetwater County alone averages 340 to 400 domestic violence clients per year.
“That’s how big of an issue it is…” Baas said.
Baas also encouraged residents to drive down Dewar Drive at night and see all of the purple lights on display for Domestic Violence Awareness month. Residents can also rent a sign for $10 to place in their yard to show their support for raising awareness. Those interested in signs, can call the YWCA at 307-352-6635.