Silent Witness Initiative


The Silent Witness Exhibit of Illinois honors those who have died from acts of intimate partner violence. The Exhibit consists of life-size female figures, each bearing a shield telling the true story of an Illinois woman killed as a result of domestic violence. The figures provide a powerful visual impact to raise awareness of the tragedy and loss we all suffer when lives are taken senselessly through domestic violence. Groups may use the Exhibit for outreach, education and fundraising programs. To display Silent Witness figures at your business or organization, please email [email protected].

About the Illinois Exhibit

The Silent Witness Exhibit consists of life-size red female figures, representing women who have died from acts of domestic violence. Blue male figures symbolize the small but real number of male victims, and small white figures signify the children left alone when their mothers died.  The Exhibit is available for use in various venues: indoors at conferences and lectures, schools, malls, hospitals, etc.; outdoors for marches and vigils. Many businesses and public places welcome the Exhibit. The figures are lightweight, corrugated plastic that fit easily into a car. Set up is quick and simple. Email [email protected] for more information and to contact us.

The Silent Witness Exhibit has been viewed in Illinois by thousands of people in dozens of venues since it was launched in 1997 by the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) Chicago North Shore Section. NCJW invites communities in Northeastern Illinois to use its Exhibit, which includes 40 female, 1 male, and 14 child figures. In addition, other organizations throughout the state participate in the Illinois Initiative by sponsoring their own Exhibits. NCJW offers a statewide service by helping groups create new Exhibits and providing access to a database of more than 100 real-life stories to personalize the Exhibit figures. If you wish to borrow an Exhibit, NCJW also can help you contact Exhibit sponsors in your geographic area.


The Silent Witness Exhibit of Illinois is part of the National Silent Witness Initiative, started in 1990 in Minneapolis. There are now exhibits in all 50 states and 30 foreign countries. Through community-based domestic violence reduction efforts, the National Initiative promotes peace, healing and responsibility in adult relationships. For more information and to connect with Silent Witness via social media, visit the national website,


“Powerful exhibit that impresses upon me the necessity of collective action to keep these silent ranks from growing. Speak out, yell loud, stop the violence!”
“One picture is worth a thousand words. The pictures of women’s lives presented by the Silent Witness appeared to facilitate a dialogue about painful family relationships that for many never existed before.”
“Attendees at our events have expressed surprise when the read a shield of a woman who lived in their community, and [they] can no longer say ‘domestic violence doesn’t happen in my neighborhood’.”
“We read statistics about domestic violence all the time, but I think the Silent Witness Exhibit helps make the statistics real.”
“It is interesting to watch as the realization overcomes people that this silhouette was actually once a real person whose life was cut short by domestic violence.
“The Silent Witness display provided a very tangible image of violence and its devastation.”
“From an emotional sense, I found it very profound to be standing “face-to-face” with a person and her only way to speak was through a placard on her chest. She was telling me to become angry at the tragedy of her death and make something happen!”