LORAIN — At the main entrance of the Lorain Public Library sits an empty chair that tells the story of Barbara Kallas.
Kallas worked at the circulation desk. In 2004, her husband of about 40 years waited across the street for her to come to work. As she walked through the library’s parking lot, her husband shot her four times in the chest and once through the arm.
She is one of many victims of domestic violence in Lorain County. To raise awareness of stories like hers, Genesis House has partnered with organizations and businesses for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, including the Lorain library.
One of its campaigns is an empty seat at the table exhibit. Businesses use a chair and display a frame that tells the story of one of Lorain County’s domestic violence victims.
Executive Director Virginia Beckman said domestic violence is a public health issue that all too often remains in secrecy. October is an opportunity to focus people’s attention on it.
She said domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women in the U.S. — more than car crashes, muggings and rapes combined. Beckman said more than 50 percent of women killed are murdered by an intimate partner.
“The only way we’re going to see an end or a diminution of domestic violence is if it becomes less socially acceptable,” Beckman said. “At this point, misogyny is still the smog we all breathe.”
Anastasia Diamond-Ortiz, executive director at the library, said the display put up this month for Kallas has a very personal meaning for the organization. She said it was important for the entire staff to bring awareness to domestic violence. It was important that they talk about Kallas.
Beckman said when they approached the library about doing the display, everyone was overwhelmingly on board.
Diamond-Ortiz said domestic violence touches so many lives, but it isn’t talked about a lot. For patrons of the library to come in and see the empty seat and read the story, Diamond-Ortiz said she hopes it shows them that this is real and in the community.
Some of the businesses participating include male-dominated places, Beckman said, like police departments, gyms and barbershops.
Beckman said it will take a culture shift for domestic violence to become less acceptable.
“The more and more that the peer group of abusers, or other men, actually speak out against it and take a stand against it, then we’re going to start to see domestic violence decrease,” she said.
With the pandemic putting more people in isolation, Beckman said it’s important that Genesis House continue its outreach throughout the year.
It's put out billboards throughout the county, created a website and started a podcast. With isolation comes an increased risk for people experiencing domestic violence, Beckman said.
Also happening in the county are purple ribbons on display along Broadway in Lorain, at the Lorain County Community College and on Ely Square from Oct. 18 to Oct. 22.
The larger exhibit — the silent witness exhibit — features life-size silhouettes that tell the story of each Lorain County resident that was a domestic violence victim. Those were at LCCC until Friday. They are now moving to Marion L. Steele High School in Amherst.
Beckman said it’s important to bring awareness to teenagers as well.
Genesis House teaches a curriculum that shows students in grades seven through 12 how to respond if a friend is experiencing domestic violence. Beckman said teens are more likely to go to another teen if they experience domestic violence.
Marion L. Steele High School also has Team Street Team, which is students becoming ambassadors to further their education and learn more about domestic violence. They put on awareness campaigns, create posters and do activities to raise awareness.
Local bars are also placing informational tents on bars and tables at places including Bistro Bella Luna, Kim’s Grocery & Carryout, Bingo Chinese Restaurant and Sterks Catering.
If you or someone you love is being hurt, Genesis House has a 24/7 crisis hotline at (440) 244-1853 or (440) 323-3400.
Contact Laina Yost at (440) 329-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.