Giving domestic violence victims a voice

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SHUBENACADIE: There was a special visitor at the N.S. Justice Probation office in Shubenacadie during the week of Feb. 12-16 — a silent visitor.

The Silent Witness silhouette of Barbara Ann Baillie was on display in Shubenacadie Corrections Services, located in the Shubenacadie Courthouse building. It was Family Violence Prevention Week. The silhouette is one of eight that are across the province used during presentations on domestic violence.

Dolly Mosher, the co-ordinator of the Victim Services Unit with Halifax Regional Police, said the Silent Witness program’s journey began in 2004 when individuals from across the province gathered to learn about the Silent Witness movement. They were so touched by the stories that a commitment was made to honour and remember Silent Witnesses in this way.

“The purpose of the silhouettes at probation represent the women that were murdered by their intimate partners,” said Mosher.

The silhouettes are life-sized, red and wooden, with each one representing a murdered woman. Each bears a shield engraved with a description provided by her family, of her as a woman who was also a beloved mother, friend, sister, daughter, co-worker, etc.

For the Shubie office, Barbara Ann Baillie was the shield on the silhouette. Baillie was killed by her husband on Oct. 19, 1990. In Shubie Park in Dartmouth, a purple bench known as Barb’s Bench is located. It’s one of two that have been created; the other was at Long Lake Provincial Park as of 2016.

Mosher said she has been working with Baillie’s family over the past couple of years.

“They wanted to commemorate the 25th anniversary of their mother’s death so they built a purple bench and put it in Long Lake Park, which was one of her favourite places to go,” she said. “What we’re doing is creating purple benches in memory of women who have been murdered by their intimate partner and placing them in parks, hopefully across the province.”

A new purple bench was unveiled in October 2017 in New Glasgow.

“The benches are also a place for people to take in the peace and the quiet that the surroundings provide,” said Mosher.

Mosher said while Baillie has been gone for 27 years, the silhouettes give her — and the 53 other women killed — a voice. She spoke of a woman in Lantz who was involved in a murder-suicide, and hopes someday they can create a silhouette in memory of that woman.

“Essentially, Barb and all the others have been given their voices back,” she said. “That’s what the silhouettes do. What it represent is it gives them that voice to hopefully prevent a domestic homicide from happening.”