Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Raising awareness: Much more than “just a domestic” October 2, 2014

The Clothesline

The Clothesline Project, initiated in Cape Cod in 1990, addresses the issue of violence against women. Those impacted by violence against women express their emotions via decorating a t-shirt. Those are then hung on a clothesline as a way to raise awareness of domestic violence.

SHE MAY BE YOUR DAUGHTER, your sister, your niece, your next-door neighbor, your friend or co-worker’s daughter. She may even be you.

You likely know someone who has been in an abusive relationship. Except you may not realize it. These victims, mostly women, may not bear the bruises or other physical signs of abuse. The level of abuse may not have reached that stage of a slap or a push or a hand around the neck. Or a threat to kill or to kill one’s self, which spoken by an abuser should be taken as seriously as the threat of homicide.

Domestic abuse isn’t solely (and sometimes never) about the physical. It’s first about emotional and psychological control and manipulation—the lies, the deceit, the charm, the promises/proclamations of change, the “I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to do that,” the pleading, the “I won’t ever do that again,” the intimidation, the excuses, the justification for placing a hand upon a woman.

Do you know families who have lost loved ones to domestic violence? I do. The daughter of a former neighbor. The niece of a sister-in-law and brother-in-law.

Do you know families whose loved ones have been in relationships with domestic abusers? I do.

Let’s stop for a moment. I wish domestic violence/abuse wasn’t termed as such. The word choice minimizes the crime. If a woman is killed by her husband or partner, it’s murder. Murder. If she’s physically harmed, it’s assault or attempted murder. You can agree or disagree, but the words “domestic violence/abuse,” for me, minimize the act as if a relationship lessens the crime, putting blame upon the victim.

Blame. Don’t blame the victim. Ever. If you think a woman can simply leave the man she loves, or thinks she loves, then you do not understand the very basic premise of domestic abuse. Control. Manipulation. Power.

Equally as important is remembering that you cannot “make” a woman leave an abusive relationship. That must be her decision.

October marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month. We each hold a personal responsibility to understand and educate ourselves about this crime. You need look no further than the court report in your local newspaper or to sports figures held in such (undeserved) high esteem to see how domestic violence against (mostly) women permeates our society. Maybe you need only look next door or in the mirror.

This month, determine to understand and to educate yourself, to do something in whatever way you can to honor those women who have died, those women who have survived and, yes, even those women who have no clue they are in an abusive relationship.

Margie's VoiceDonate monies to a local support center that focuses on assisting victims and/or survivors of domestic abuse. In my community, Ruth’s House of Hope, a shelter for homeless women and children located several blocks from my house; HOPE Center, a site offering support to those dealing with sexual and domestic violence; and Whispers of Hope, a faith-based healing center for young women, are always in need of financial gifts.

All three of those resource centers will benefit from an a capella concert fundraiser set for 4 p.m. Saturday, October 4, at River Valley Church in Faribault.

Or participate in a domestic violence awareness fundraiser like Margie’s Voice 5K Walk/Run, beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday, October 4, at the River Bend Nature Center in Faribault. Margie’s Voice honors the memory of Margie (Brown) Holland and her unborn daughter, Olivia. Roger Holland was sentenced to two terms of life in prison for the 2013 murders of his wife and daughter. Margie’s dad once lived across the street from me.

Yes.

She may be your daughter, your sister, your niece, your next-door neighbor, your friend or co-worker’s daughter. She may even be you.

FYI: If you are in an abusive relationship, seek help now by calling a local resource center or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Click here to reach the national website for more information.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling