2016 Candlelight Vigil

Candlelight Vigil logo

It is October. It is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and we celebrate, remember, and provide hope.

Thank you to everyone who came out to this year’s annual Candlelight Vigil to show support and bring awareness to issues of domestic and intimate partner violence in our community.

This year we presented the Chrysalis Award to Leanne Wierenga. Leanne was nominated by a couple of strong allies in our community stating that she is “made of tough stuff…” and that she openly shares that “toughness” as a crusader against domestic violence and sexual abuse and is not afraid to courageously express her views on both of these issues in an effort to affect change and awareness.

Leanne lives her life altruistically. When asked why she volunteers, Leanne said, “that’s what you are supposed to do. You are supposed to volunteer.” It is that selfless giving and commitment and her own story of survivorship that led Leanne to be a strong supporter of Project Woman as a volunteer a donor, and past board member. But above all Leanne is an advocate – which is the spirit of the Chrysalis Award. Thank you Leanne for all you have done and continue to do!

1 in 4 women and approximately 1 in 10 men experience domestic and intimate partner violence in their lifetime. Grave statistics; I was in a meeting just this morning and was asked, “Are you seeing any change in the need for [your] services?” I am asked that question a lot actually. I believe that when people are asking me this they are secretly crossing their fingers hoping and praying that my answer will be “yes – there is less need; we are putting an end to domestic violence…” I know that is my daily hope and prayer!

And even though our services are in greater demand – our emergency shelter capacity is stretched as far as it can be and is pretty crowded at times! – But, I don’t believe it is because we are ineffective. Quite the opposite! Our increased staff capacity, growing community partnerships, and the strong prevention/education efforts we all are committed to – is working because people are coming forward and asking for help!

Abusers isolate victims. They take away dignity, voice and hope.

The message, “You are not alone” is being heard. Women and men and children who are living with domestic violence are able to look around and see that we are here – standing together – and none need to feel alone! This may be the most important message to someone who is living with violence.

We stand together; to listen without judgment, to be patient, to share strength, to give voice; to believe, to unendingly give hope and to always remember.

In peace,

Laura Baxter, Executive Director

Become a “Story-Changer”

Dear Friends,

It is summer! School is out. We have celebrated this year’s graduates. We have earnestly planted gardens and are eagerly planning vacation time. Most of us are looking forward to some type of leisure, rest, and relaxation.

However, we are also reminded every day that domestic violence and sexual assault never take a vacation. In our nation every nine seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten; domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women. Growing numbers of men and boys are finding the courage to speak out about abuses they too have experienced. This is an unacceptable reality and it is our obligation to change it! Project Woman has been changing the story for survivors for over forty years.

I ask that you consider joining us as a “story-changer” by making a contribution today!  Help us to provide the safe place, the support and the process, for those who experience abuse and violence, to begin to write new pages in their story. A new story filled with courage, hope and a vision, for today and tomorrow, as a Survivor!

On behalf of all of the survivors, past and present, for who Project Woman has been a refuge, thank you for your support.

Sincerely and In Peace,

Laura Baxter, Executive Director, Project Woman

1 in 5…


Millions watched as Lady Gaga shared the Oscars’ stage with survivors of sexual assault during her powerful performance of “Til It Happens To You.” The message was clear: we must change the culture that enables sexual assault, and support the one in five undergraduate women who has experienced it.

The music video for the Lady Gaga song may be difficult for most to watch, but it is necessary to be direct and open about such an important issue. If you have not seen The Hunting Ground – watch it. Too often we are ostriches, our heads in the sand ignoring or hiding from issues that are real and all around us! And then we look up and say, “How did this world get to be like this?” The more pertinent question is, “Now that your head is above ground what are you willing to do toward change?”

Our young people should be able to attend college and get and get an education, spread their wings, dream of their future without fear of sexual coercion and violence as a tangible risk. 1 in 5…it should not be the truth, but it is!

April is Sexual Assault Awareness month. See how you can get involved at www.projectwomanohio.org

There is NO Place for Shame

proud image

Victim shaming comments and questions focus the blame on the wrong person.

When women began stepping forward late last year accusing comedian and actor Bill Cosby of various incidents of sexual assault in the 70s, the public’s opinion was swift and clear: These women were eager for their 15 minutes of fame, or they were seeking money. Many asked why the alleged victims waited so long to come forward with their accusations. It seemed few wanted to believe that Cosby could be anyone but the sweet and loveable father and husband he had portrayed on TV for so many years.

Victim shaming happens across the globe every day. Survivors of rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence face ridicule and judgment for stepping forward and speaking out about abuse. Sometimes this shaming comes from not just anonymous commenters on the Internet, but their own family and friends as well.

Ignorance is at the root of victim shaming. The horrible part about victim shaming is that many victims are afraid no one will believe them, which is why they don’t come forward in the first place. That’s why they wait … and then get blamed for waiting.

Victim shaming can also be the effect of denial by those who have never experienced domestic violence or assault. They don’t want to admit that it can happen to them, but 24 people every minute are abused [by an intimate partner] in the United States. That’s something for people who say “I’ll never be a victim” to consider.

Victim shaming can be masked by seemingly innocent questions such as, “What was she wearing?” or “Was she drinking?” These comments assume the victim had a choice in becoming the victim, when in truth, the abuser is the one who chose to be violent, coercive and abusive.

Intimate partner and domestic violence victim shaming can appear as pressure from friends and family to make a relationship “work”. Survivors end up feeling like the violence is their fault and that if they open up about it, they’ll let everyone down. Meanwhile, survivors are also judged for staying. People see survivors staying with an abusive partner as weak and stupid. They say, “I wouldn’t put up with it,” but it’s never that easy. If you have not experienced it, you cannot look in from the outside and say what you would do.

The fact is, victim shaming makes it harder for the next victim to come forward. We need to encourage survivors, let them know that it’s not their fault and they’ve been mentally manipulated by their abuser. We need to let survivors know what options are available to them and that they’re going to be taken seriously.

You are not alone.

Laura Baxter, Executive Director, Project Woman

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month


February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.

  • 3 in 4 parents have never talked to their kids about domestic violence or sexual assault.

Talking about what it means to have a healthy relationship is the first step to preventing dating violence and abuse.

Dating violence is a form of Sexual Assault. The fact is:

  1. Young women ages 16-24 face the highest rates of sexual assault.
    • 1 in 9 teen girls will be forced to have sex.
    • 1 in 5 young women will be a victim of sexual assault while they are in college.
  2. Studies have found that teen dating violence affects 35% of adolescents
  3. 70% of victims (male and female) never report the incident.
  4. Repeat victimization is common: over a third of women who were raped as minors were also raped as adults.

As we consider the impacts of Teen Dating Violence (TDV), we must consider the various ways our society normalizes intimate partner violence. One student from a local school said, “…but isn’t this just dating?” when we were discussing over 100 texts she had received demanding where she was, what she was doing, and who she was with. This clearly is not “normal” and under the law could be defined as stalking and is certainly a red flag for potential future violence.

Project Woman provides several programs within the local schools and community including Safe Dates, All Ready, Bully Busters and Respect. ALL are designed build self-awareness in students and create an open dialogue that could change the pattern of their future. Consider how you can enter the conversation with the teens that are in your life. Being silent is not an option.

– Laura Baxter, Executive Director, Project Woman

Amelia Earhart Day

Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart Day, is today, January 11.

To quote Amelia Earhart: “Women should do for themselves what men have already done – occasionally what men have not done – thereby establishing themselves as persons, and perhaps encouraging other women toward greater independence of thought and action. Some such consideration was a contributing reason for my wanting to do what I so much wanted to do.”

Zonta International was the only non-flying organization that Amelia joined in her short, intense life. She had been a member of the Zonta Club of New York, USA, since 1930 when she disappeared on July 2, 1937 while attempting to be the first pilot to circle the world by air at the equator. The following year, Zonta International vowed to honor her memory with a scholarship for women graduate students in engineering. There were very few women pursuing advanced postgraduate degrees in that field, and the women of Zonta in 1938 wanted to encourage women to think big and participate in this exciting new field.

Amelia Earhart’s words are equally true today, “…encouraging other women toward greater independence…” Though her time with us was short and her last days filled with more question than answer, Amelia is an inspiration to us all. Women encouraging women is incredibly powerful! Consider how you can Be An Encouragement Today!

The Zonta Club of Springfield strongly supports Project Woman and is a partner in our Advocacy efforts. For more information about Zonta’s local and international efforts you can find their partner link on our webpage www.projectwomanohio.org or go directly to https://www.facebook.com/ZontaClubOfSpringfieldOhio

2015 Candlelight Vigil Speech

Chrysalis Butterfly

It is October. It is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and we are once again gathering to celebrate, to remember, and to provide hope.

A person calling our Crisis Hotline said to the recently, “I just don’t think anyone will believe me,” as she was sharing details of the coercion and abuse she was enduring. Her partner was successful in business. They had what others would call a “happy family.” She shared, “I have covered for him for so long people that will think I am either crazy or lying.” She was stuck. Afraid. And felt alone. We – the friend – the family – the Community – must join each and every day, to bring hope to those who are struggling to find it, and we must let them know that they are not alone!

I would like to be able to share some astounding statistical statement that the incidents of domestic and intimate partner violence have gone down. I was asked the other day by a reporter for the News-Sun if there has been any improvement – meaning a decline in the violence. I hated having to say, “No,” that we do not see a decline. The data still holds true at 1 in 4 women and approximately 1 in 10 men experience domestic and intimate partner violence.

However, I believe that we have worked hard to build accessibility for victims seeking safety, supports and shelter. I also believe that we have worked hard in our prevention and education efforts, specifically in Bystander Intervention and Awareness, to support a community culture of peace. This is an investment in our future and hopefully one that will encourage next generations to stand up and say, “This is not right.”

Making change and making a difference is not something that happens quickly or easily. It is a lifetime commitment. One that each of us must make for ourselves and for each other.

Tonight, I am proud to announce this year’s Chrysalis Award is presented to Clara Copeland. Clara receives this award because of her lifetime commitment to peace, to making change, and to ensuring the voice of women, children, families and this community.

Clara lives her beliefs. Few can say that their life’s walk mirrors what is in their heart. It is not to say that there has never been regret or mislaid plans in Clara’s life, but the very core of her beliefs – whether it be her faith, her family, her politics, or her social justice commitments – is demonstrated each and every day in everything she does and says. She is an activist at heart, always looking to right the wrongs and bring important issues to the forefront of the community’s attention.

Clara has been a strong supporter of Project Woman as a volunteer, donor, and board member. But beyond that she is an advocate, which is the spirit of the Chrysalis Award. She works tirelessly to bring the changes she holds so deeply in her heart. Clara believes in honoring commitments and walking the walk, not just talking the talk. People who have had her in their lives are truly blessed and touched by someone who makes their lives better by knowing her.

Thank you Clara for all you have done and continue to do!

Laura Baxter, Executive Director – Project Woman

Visit projectwomanohio.org for information on tonight’s Candlelight Vigil and other Project Woman events this month.