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Silent Witness Project remembers past, recent victims

When Maureen Spaulding was contacted to be part of a ceremony of remembrance for her daughter, she instantly knew she would come back every year.

“It wasn’t just about my own daughter, but it was also about the other families and what they are going through,” Spaulding said.

The 13th annual Northwest Ohio Silent Witness Project Unveiling was hosted by the University Women’s Center Monday night at the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo where voluenteers read stories of victims of domestic abuse.

“These stories touch each of us— neighbors, sister or partner,” said Chelsea Fuller, coordinator of the event. “It should be a shock [when you hear these stories].”

After each person read a silent witness’ story, a black shroud was taken off a cut-out silhouette of that victim with a plaque containing their story on it.

“After 10 years has gone, we remove the plaque and place it with the others,” said Mary Krueger, director the Women’s Center at the University.

In the past 10 years, there have been 69 reported cases of some form of domestic abuse in northwest Ohio, “meaning there has been at least one murder every seven and half weeks,” Krueger said.

Spaulding lost her daughter, Beth, 31, after her husband “accidentally” gave her his medication in place of hers, Spaulding said. Beth usually took Promethazine, which is a drug that prevents and controls motion sickness and nausea, which is why Beth took the drug. Her husband took a drug called Methadone for back pain.

Three weeks prior to her death, her husband gave her his pill to take and she was immediately rushed to the hospital and treated for three days.

“The pills were both big, so that is why he claimed he accidentally got them mixed up,” Spaulding said. “She wanted to believe him that it truly was an accident, so that is why it wasn’t reported.”

The day of her death, April 2, 2012, around 12 p.m., Beth went to take a nap, due to lack of sleep the night before. Her husband did not try to wake her up until 10:30 p.m.; by that time she was unresponsive. He then called the police to report that his wife would not wake up.

The coroner’s report showed eight to 12 lethal doses of her husband’s drug, methadone, in Beth’s system, causing her death while asleep. Eight to 12 lethal doses equals 20 to 40 pills, Spaulding said.

“I knew that was it because of what happened from the event before,” Spaulding said. “Unless you have been through it, you don’t understand how heartbreaking it is.”

Even though it was tough hearing her daughter’s story out loud again, it was an honor to share it with the audience.

“I was touched when I was contacted,” she said. “What I constantly hear in the press is his name, not hers, so when I hear the phrase ‘remember my name,’ I crack every single time.”

Not only was it hard for the families to hear the stories of all of the victims, but it was also tough for the readers representing each silent witness.

Deidra Lashley, a victim advocate on campus, spoke for silent witness April Vann and said even though she has read stories for silent witnesses each year, it’s still an emotional experience.

“It’s overwhelming looking at the families to see their grief and loss,” Lashley said. “But to see that collective response to horrifc events, is incredible. It’s so raw and [sad] but we have to continue to bring light [to their names].”

First time reader, senior Alexandra Lahey, said she felt very immersed when she read Linsi Light’s story.

“I researched her story, which made it all so real,” Lahey said. “It is so much more real when you read it in first person and add personality to the story.”

Lahey said the stories were difficult to hear, but was more than delighted to be able to be part of it.

“When it cut straight to the facts of how they died, it made it more hurtful,” she said. “This is a reality that needs to be recognized.”

Krueger agreed.

“I hope one day I don’t have to do this, but until then we hope to represent each silent witness’ story,” Krueger said. “These issues are real and out there.”

Even though Krueger has been doing this for years now, it still gets under her skin.

“I’m pretty thick-skinned, but this event is incredibly intense and never losses power to affect me,” she said.

Krueger and Fuller hope this event will not only raise awareness about how to stop or notice signs of domestic abuse, but also to show how vital it is for others to come foward.

“I really hope that the audience’s eyes opened up to these issues and also that victims of domestic abuse can always talk to someone and not be scared to let someone know what is going on behind closed doors,” Fuller said.

Although the event was emotional for everyone, Spaulding said she was pleased with the turn out and was not surprised that both family members and friends of Beth attended.

“It was really just touching,” Spaulding said. “She would’ve loved this.”

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