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Highlighting Local Heroes – The Women’s Resource Center of Lackawanna County March 14, 2011

Posted by Syd in Local Heroes.
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We also want to highlight the smaller, more local organizations that may not get a lot of coverage otherwise.

Sent in from valued contributor (super valued, she’s provided tremendous support and we can’t thank her enough) Kate:

The Women’s Resource Center of Lackawanna County.

The Women’s Resource Center has been operating in Lackawanna County since 1975, first with volunteers only and currently enhancing the volunteer efforts with a paid staff.  They have a 24 hour phone hotline and in-person counseling during business hours.  Advocates accompany survivors to legal proceedings, medical appointments, police interviews, and other appointments as requested.  They provide safe housing in a confidential location for program participants who are in immediate danger or in a potentially lethal situation due to domestic and/or sexual violence.

They have a special exhibit of the damage of domestic violence as a tribute to victims.  It is called:

An Empty Place at the Table

The Exhibit An Empty Place at the Table was born out of a desire to grieve the loss and celebrate the lives of women and children who were killed in acts of domestic violence. The impetus for this exhibit came from the deaths of two women, Phyllis Mashie and Cindy Marshalek, and a child, Sheena Marie Jones, which occurred within 22 days of one another in 1993.

Seven-year-old Sheena Marie Jones was raped and murdered in her bed the night of July 24 by an ex-boyfriend of her mother. When the mother insisted he leave the house after he abused her, he threatened to conduct a horrific act of revenge. He returned and proved it was not an idle threat.

On August 8, Phyllis Mashie was murdered by her husband, Gordon Mashie, who stabbed her 191 times as her son watched the beginning of the assault. Gordon had been charged with raping Phyllis late in May, and imprisoned. On July 2, at a bail reduction hearing, the judge agreed to reduce bail from $50,000 to $25,000 and Mashie was released after posting $2,500. Despite a Protection From Abuse order, Gordon Mashie found a way to get to Phyllis.

Cindy Marshalek had left an abusive relationship and wanted a divorce. On August 2 she saw her attorney and filed divorce papers, which were served to her husband three days later. Her estranged husband murdered her on August 15, and killed himself the next day.

Shortly after Phyllis Mashie was killed, friends and co-workers organized a rally at the county courthouse to protest the judge’s action in reducing Gordon Mashie’s bail. Besides the friends and co-workers, some Women’s Resource Center staff and volunteers were present at the rally. A week later Cindy Marshalek was murdered. Some time later a group of Phyllis’ friends, as well as other concerned family and friends of victims, WRC staff, and volunteers gathered at the Women’s Resource Center. Those gathered wanted to explore how to maintain the momentum of the rally and how to respond to the senseless acts of violence that took the lives of these three.

The Table image is a symbol and experience that is common to most victims of domestic homicide, no matter their social status, age, race, ethnicity, or other life experiences. Each of the victims had a place at the table in their homes as members of a family. Their murders leave an empty place at that table, and a symbolic empty place in society. Domestic violence homicide tragically changes the family table and the symbolic table in the community and society as a whole.

The Documentary Film An Empty Place at the Table was developed over a period of two years. The concept of the film was developed and presented to the surviving family members. Many of the surviving family members chose to be interviewed for the filming and raised funds for the local film premiere event. Film narration was generously donated by Academy Award winning actress Susan Sarandon.

The film has been shown for police recruit training, college courses, community club meeting, state-wide association meeting, as a conference workshop, for local clergy/faith leaders meeting, attached to a fundraising event, and others. The film is accompanied by a panel discussion including a WRC representative, local domestic/sexual violence advocates, and others from the community who can facilitate a discussion on the impact of violence in their own community. Advocates and community groups have replicated the exhibit in their own communities.

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