Kaiser Permanente recently opened a Silent Witness exhibit at its Terra Linda, CA medical center on February 4. The display is a collection of tall panels that feature the stories of victims of physical, verbal and psychological violence. A striking central panel shows photographs of three Kaiser employees who were killed by their abusers. The exhibit is part of the Kaiser's family violence prevention program, designed to create awareness among its workers and the public about the epidemic that its victims and perpetrators so often hide.
In a short speech before the unveiling of the panels, newly appointed Marin District Attorney Ed Berberian said the goal of his office is to work with other agencies to stop domestic violence. "Domestic violence is not hidden - it's not a secret anymore," Berberian said. "It's something we've got to stop and will stop."
The traveling exhibit, displayed at Kaiser facilities throughout the state, tells the stories of Kaiser staff who have dealt with domestic violence. The personal stories come from physicians, administrators, medical technicians and other employees who believe family violence can be prevented by bringing it out into the open. Kaiser labor consultant Cindy Thomas of Petaluma spoke of a four-year ordeal during which she was abused by her former husband. She said it is important for people to tell their stories because it helps others who have not confronted the violence in their lives. It took a potentially fatal attack that resulted in an ambulance trip to the hospital to make Thomas realize she had to leave the abusive relationship. A social worker who visited her in the hospital was the first person she was able to talk to about what was happening. "The vicious cycle is you don't want to talk about it with anyone because you don't want to set him off again," Thomas said.
Once released from the hospital, Thomas continued to meet with the social worker and followed her advice to pack a suitcase at home. "You get ready for a 30-second escape," Thomas said. Thomas finally made her getaway and took refuge in the home of a family member. There, for the first time, she talked to the shocked relative about what had been happening. "(The social worker) helped me prepare for how I was going to talk about it," Thomas said. "It's a lot of work, but it's worth every minute of work."
According to Kaiser statistics, of its 3.5 million Northern California members, 45,000 females are experiencing some kind of domestic violence. The exhibit is on display in the dermatology laboratory at the medical center at 99 Montecillo Road until Feb. 15. (Source: Marin Independent Journal )