Empty place setting at Belfast library helping to mark domestic violence awareness month

By Abigail Curtis, BDN Staff
Posted Oct. 25, 2011, at 6:16 p.m.

BELFAST, Maine — Certain locations in Waldo County are glowing purple in October to mark national domestic violence awareness month, and this week the Belfast Free Library will host a searing tribute to local victims of the crime.

On Thursday, the Empty Place at the Table memorial will be on display throughout the day and will be joined by a showing of the documentary film “Amy’s Story,” at 6:30 p.m., followed by a community discussion. The events are sponsored by New Hope For Women, the nonprofit agency serving victims of domestic violence in Waldo, Knox and Lincoln counties.

The table features four adult and one infant place settings, given by the families of five people who were killed in Maine because of domestic violence.

Richard Ailes, the agency’s development director, said Tuesday that the infant’s setting has a high chair and sippy cup used by little Ava Gushee [also known as Ava Harford]. The baby was just nine weeks old when she died as a result of injuries inflicted on her by her father, Robert Harford, Jr.

The table also bears photographs of Ava and the other four women memorialized there, as well as a place which has not yet been set.

“The empty place setting — it’s there to remind us that this is ongoing,” Ailes said. “Someone else is going to fill that seat.”

He said that the memorial is a symbol of the realities of a problem that, one way or another, affects everyone in midcoast Maine. Some locations, such as the Belfast Police Department and the bell tower of the First Church in Belfast, are bedecked with purple lights. Purple is the color used to call attention to domestic and dating violence.

Other businesses and organizations around the county also have been taking part in the purple-light tribute.

Ailes said the table exhibit, for him, is a place of reverence.

“It’s contemplative,” he said. “It’s a way to think about this problem, at the same time being aware that it hasn’t been fixed. It’s ongoing.”

The documentary film, the story of a domestic violence murder that took place in Pennsylvania, is also a moving and important story, he said.

“The basic message is that everybody deserves to be safe in their home,” Ailes said.

After the film, community members are invited to stay and take part in a discussion about domestic violence.

“It’s really important that people have the chance to communicate with each other after experiencing both the movie and domestic violence,” he said. “This is a community problem. It’s not an individual problem.”

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/10/25/news/empty-place-setting-at-belfast-library-helping-to-mark-domestic-violence-awareness-month/ printed on July 11, 2014