Red silhouettes tell a powerful story in Amberg
December 7, 2011
AMBERG, Germany -- Thanks to the Weinnachsmarkt and the scent of spicy gluehwein, Christmas was in the air for the International Day for fighting against women's violence, Nov. 25. What made this day even more special was the fact that the Soroptimist International, Amberg-Sulzbach Club, adopted the red silhouettes from U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr Army Community Service's Family Advocacy Program.
"Locals have been surprised by the silhouettes and the story which each carries," said Heidi Heckmann, member of the Soroptimist International, Amberg-Sulzbach Club. "The stories are based on true reports received from the Amberger police and from the organization of the Sozialdienst katholischer Frauen (SkF) (in English, the Catholic Women's Social Services) who run an emergency hot line for women."
"The trained counselors at SkF support women in violent situations through their emergency hot line. SkF also has a small women's shelter. Some stories are drastic and many people leave the display in shock," Heckmann said.
The Soroptimist International is an organization for professional women that inspires action for human rights, global peace, international goodwill, and promotes women's potential, volunteering and global networking. During a United Nations General Assembly in 1999, Nov. 25 was designated as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The date originated from the 1960 assassination of the three Mirabal sisters who were political activists in the Dominican Republic.
According to Waltrand Frieser, a member of the SkF, "There is no determined cause that triggers domestic violence. Often the abuse of alcohol is directly related, however, we see cases of all levels of societies and backgrounds."
The red silhouettes were on display in downtown Amberg to raise awareness among the local national population, specifically targeting women to inform them of their options should become a victim of violence.
"Our goal is to open their eyes, to intervene and act if they become suspicious of violence; one in five women will experience violence,"One in five women will experience violence" continued Heckmann. "One in five women will experience violence" continued Heckmann." said Heckmann.
Among the staff members at the exhibition, Rudiger Neithammer, an ex-Polizei and active member of the Weisser Ring, provided information about the German saying, "Wer schlaegt, der ghet!" This German law, which translates to "the one who hits goes away," states that the victim may stay in the household while the perpetrator is removed, even if the couple is not married.
"When the police are notified of domestic violence they immediately take the perpetrator to jail," said Neithammer.
According to Neithammer, the police can issue a no contact order and ban the offender from the domicile for 14 days while the victim is allowed to stay in the shared housing. The police also support the victim by accompanying the offenders while they return to pick up their personal belongings. During this time the victim can request a no contact order through the court to extend the 14-day period.
"This law should give women the courage to report violence with the knowledge that she will not be left homeless because of reporting the violence," said Neithammer.
The Weisser Ring is a German organization that represents the interests of victims of violence by supporting them and educating them about the issues.
USAG Grafenwoehr ACS' Family Advocacy Program hopes to continue collaborating with its German counterparts to raise awareness for a common cause.
"It is important to simply be active and report any abuse," said Tammy Ricketts, ACS Family Advocacy Program manager. "You could potentially save a life. Our red silhouettes hold actual stories, often with a fatality because no one intervened in time. We do not want our community to be one of those stories on a red silhouette."
For more information about the red silhouettes and ACS Family Advocacy Program, contact USAG Grafenwoehr's ACS at DSN 476-2650, CIV 09662-83-2650.