Lives of those lost to domestic violence remembered through art

By Kristen DeMatos | Posted on November 19, 2015

Members of the YWCA of Union hosted a domestic violence awareness exhibit in the Miron Student Center on Oct. 20 called “Empty Place at the Table,” which put a spotlight on victims.

The art exhibition featured different table place settings each with a story about a victim. Each setting had a story displayed next to it that was written from the voice of the victim, explaining their life and how it was taken by a significant other. Two of the place settings belonged to local women who were killed recently. The family members of one woman, April Schenesky Wyckoff, were walking around and speaking with those who stopped to look at the display.

April Schenesky Wyckoff’s story and place setting. Photo: Kristen DeMatos

April Schenesky Wyckoff’s story and place setting. Photo: Kristen DeMatos

One student walked up to the Empty Table display, covered her mouth and said, “Wow, this is so sad. I can’t do this,” and walked away. Although the displays were somber, all of those involved stressed how important it was for students to read these stories and be aware of the realities.

YWCA Executive Director Janice Lilien said girls aged from 16-24 are at the highest risk for being involved in a violent relationship.

“It’s important to raise awareness,” she said. This the eighth year they conducted the exhibition.

Wyckoff ’s sister, Sheila McGraw said, “If one person reads April’s story and it makes a difference, that makes the weight on our heart a little lighter.”

April Schenesky Wyckoff’s story from her point of view, written by her family. Photo: Kristen DeMatos

April Schenesky Wyckoff’s story from her point of view, written by her family. Photo: Kristen DeMatos

Elementary/science education major April Torres was caught off guard by the display.

“I just walked in here and saw all these things set up,” she said. “I had no idea what this was. It’s really so sad.”

McGraw said what the YWCA does with this project is very important.
“It highlights the women that they were, not the victims they became,” she said. McGraw and her family have worked hard at raising awareness of domestic violence ever since her sister was killed.

Earlier this year, they worked with the Union County YWCA to raise money and collect donated items for the shelter for victims of domestic abuse. McGraw says they collected 600 sets of sheets, 80 robes, slippers, diapers and $4,000. They even adopted a room at the shelter in memory of her April Wyckoff.

Also on display were hand-decorated t-shirts created by children and women victims of domestic violence. They served as a form of art therapy to help them process the trauma of what they went through.
Margaux Antoine, an art education major found the exhibition to be very moving.

“I really liked how they used art with the kids to help them understand their emotions. It’s really powerful to see,” she said.

Marie Caruso-Terisi, a PALS (Peace, a Learned Solution) art therapist works with the children in creating their art.

“We want to give them messages of hope. A big part of domestic violence is feeling shame, and this shows them that they are not alone. We want to create a safe space for them to express themselves.” She said they use drama therapy, art therapy, and music therapy.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, it is suggested that you reach out to the Kean Counseling Center or go to:


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