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.


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


20 Responses to “Raising awareness: Much more than “just a domestic””

  1. Dan Traun Says:

    I think you are right on with the word choice minimizing the crime; very good point.

  2. Beth Ann Says:

    Such an important topic and one that we all need to educate ourselves about so that we can be informed. Thank you, Audrey, for sharing all the great information here and for all of the important contact information for anyone who needs some help. I am definitely sharing this one.

  3. Watching a loved one go through an experience like this was like watching a slow suicide year after year. These women have their self confidence and self worth beaten down until they are crippled with fear. Thank you for sharing.

    • Thank you for sharing this deeply personal perspective. That’s the thing. Domestic abuse impacts the entire family and such a feeling of helplessness persists. How did you handle this emotionally?

      • Honestly I’m not sure that I have handled it. I just try not to dwell on the negative. A lot of times that is easier said than done. It was my Sister who was in the violent relationship. She died less than 2 months after getting out, and he still walks free… The state dismissed all of the charges against him after she died. That was the biggest slap in the face. I keep telling myself that karma will catch up to him.

      • I knew it was your dear sister, Missy, but other readers don’t, so thank you for sharing that here.

        Unfortunately, you are not alone in thinking that the system has failed you, your family and specifically your sister. It happens way too often. Way too often. I don’t know the reason. Is it because of a lack of understanding on the part of those who make our laws, those who enforce them and/or those who deal with violators? Are we to blame as a society in general? Education, understanding and, yes, even empathy could go a long ways in assisting those who suffer at the hands of an abuser and also the families impacted.

        You have shown your strength by crafting and donating items to those in need and by writing about Brittany. Persist at that. Continue to be heard. Your voice matters. That is your power.

  4. Jackie Says:

    A very informative and heart felt post, thank you for the information on something we’d rather not have to even think about….this stuff is REAL and you’re right, we probably all know someone!

  5. LadyofRohan76 Says:

    Thank you for your post. Domestic violence has touched me through my sister and Margie. Looking forward to honoring Margie and Olivia this weekend.

    • I am so sorry that domestic violence has impacted you personally. But to read that you are taking action by honoring Margie and Olivia encourages me. I’m sure you have done even more to make a difference, to enlighten and to empower others. Thank you for that.

  6. Beautiful post – thanks for raising awareness 🙂 I work with the Domestic Council in the office I work for and it is so important to get the awareness out there, especially with the teenagers and dating violence. There is many forms of abuse and assault that people need to be made aware of. I am currently working on a community service project for a local organization to raise donations for cosmetic products to help place in beauty bags for victims of abuse, female and male. The donations raised will help with the Christmas bags this year – so excited to be helping this organization out. Thanks again!

  7. The whole Ray Rice saga caused me to dig into this issue recently. Here is link to what I found out: http://whattoexpectwhen.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/celebrities-and-domestic-violence/

  8. Sue Ready Says:

    A very timely subject with this issue on the front burner during October-Domestic Violence Awareness Month. You are doing your community a service by raising awareness of these issues and letting others know what resources are available. Thank you for writing this blog.

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