For the past three years, a woman has stood at the back of the crowd gathered at the State House steps for the annual South Carolina Silent Witness Ceremony.
This year, the 20th anniversary of the ceremony remembering the lives lost to domestic violence, Jamie Banks worestage makeup to replicate the bruises and cuts that once lined her face from the fist of her abuser.
“This time I decided to do the makeup to make it more dramatic," Banks said. "There were times when my face looked like this.” She said she escaped her abuser who ended up serving time in prison.
She’s held a sign, the same one she carries each year. The sign reads, “Here to raise awareness because at any given time between 2010 & 2014 someone could’ve been holding a silhouette for me.”
The Silent Witness Ceremony is put on by every year by the South Carolina attorney general’s office through S.T.O.P. (Services, Training, Officers, and Prosecutors) Violence Against Women program. The ceremony’s purpose is to raise awareness about domestic violence and to pay tribute to the victims of domestic violence from the prior year.
According to the attorney general’s office, South Carolina has been fifth in the nation since 2014 for the number of homicides caused by domestic violence. In2016, 39 people were reportedly murdered by a household member, 34 of which were women and 5 of which were men.
As part of the annual ceremony, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson reads the names of each of the victims along with their story. As he reads the names, volunteers or the victim’s family members walk down the steps holding a cardboard silhouette.
The end result is the striking image of cardboard silhouettes representing those who died, standing in front of the crowd on the statehouse steps.
Banks says she can’t emphasize enough the significance of the Silent Witness Ceremony.
"I could have easily lost my life at any time," she said. "It’s important to get the word out there.”