Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The clothesline beyond laundry July 23, 2015

STORY UPDATED at 4:15 p.m. Thursday.

A display from The Clothesline Project. Image from The Clothesline Project website.

A display from The Clothesline Project. Image from The Clothesline Project website.

ON SUNDAY, JULY 26, a clothesline takes on an entirely different purpose than drying laundry as the Crisis Resource Center of Steele County and Redeemer Lutheran Church of Owatonna bring The Clothesline Project to Central Park in Owatonna. Begun in Cape Cod in 1990, the national art project raises awareness about violence against women. Those impacted by such violence express their emotions by writing on t-shirts. The shirts are then strung on a clothesline.

This shirt was added to The Clothesline Project four years ago by Kim Sisto-Robinson of Duluth. It honors her sister Kay, who was murdered by her husband in 2010.

This shirt was added to The Clothesline Project four years ago by Kim Sisto-Robinson of Duluth. It honors her sister Kay, who was murdered by her husband in 2010.

The Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women manages The Clothesline Project traveling exhibit in Minnesota. Eighty decorated shirts representing the 80 individuals killed through domestic violence in Minnesota during the past three years are part of the display coming to Owatonna.

From 3 p.m. – 7 p.m. Sunday, attendees can create and view t-shirts honoring victims and survivors of domestic violence. A ceremony begins at 4 p.m. with remarks by the Rev. Kirk Griebel, pastor of Redeemer Lutheran; reading of a mayoral proclamation declaring July 26 as Domestic Violence and Abuse Awareness Day in Owatonna; and remarks from Crisis Resource Center and law enforcement representatives.

The back of the shirt includes the names of Kay's three children. Kim found the lips blotted on a piece of paper in one of Kay's books. A Duluth printed printed them on the shirt. Kay kissed everything with her big pink lips, says her sister.

The back of the shirt includes the names of Kay’s three children. Kim found the lips blotted on a piece of paper in one of Kay’s books. A Duluth printer printed them on the shirt. Kay kissed everything with her big pink lips, says her sister.

The Clothesline Project promises to be a powerful visual focused on raising awareness about domestic abuse and violence. I encourage you to attend. I expect every single one of you knows a woman and/or family that has been impacted by this. I do. Many.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in every three women will suffer some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime. For men, that number is one in four. Remember also that domestic abuse is not always physical. It can also be emotional, mental, spiritual and social.

Do all you can as an individual to stand strong against domestic abuse and violence. Refuse to remain silent.

As Pastor Griebel said in remarks at the Owatonna City Council meeting Tuesday evening, “Silence provides a cover for those who perpetrate domestic violence and abuse, while breaking the silence of domestic violence and abuse allows healing to begin.”

Powerful words.

Come on Sunday. Create a t-shirt. Join those who are choosing to break the silence.

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FYI: If you are currently in an abusive relationship, seek help. Call a local safe haven/resource center or the National Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233. If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

Leaving an abuser is an especially dangerous time. Seek help and have a safe plan to leave. You will need a protection plan for a year or longer after leaving your abuser. There are people willing to help. You are worth it. You deserve to live free of abuse of any form.

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Kim has made it her mission to speak out against domestic violence. She is the voice of her sister Kay, pictured here.

Kim Sisto-Robinson has made it her mission to speak out against domestic violence. She is the voice of her sister Kay, pictured here. The shirt Kay is wearing is now part of The Clothesline Project.

I would also encourage you, dear readers, to click here and read My Inner Chick, a blog written by Kim Sisto-Robinson of Duluth, Minnesota. Kim’s sister, Kay, was murdered by her husband in 2010. This blog is one of the most powerful I’ve read on the subject of domestic abuse and violence. Kim’s words will empower you and give you hope. She writes: “Kay was silenced, but her voice lives through me.”

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Thank you to Kim Sisto-Robinson for sharing the photos of her sister and of The Clothesline Project shirt honoring Kay.

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18 Responses to “The clothesline beyond laundry”

  1. What a Great Project and a Great Way to Spread Awareness on DV! Thanks so much for sharing. Have a Great Day 🙂

  2. Jackie Says:

    Such a great cause, and so sad at the same time. It pains me to know people go through this abuse and some never make it out. Thanks again for bringing this to our attention Audrey, Prayers going out to those who are “on the fence” that they will have strength to get out….while they still can.

  3. Thank you for helping us get the word out on this event. Just this morning in the Owatonna newspaper there was an article about another case of allegation of domestic violence. This time the charge included attempted strangulation. This is particularly worrisome because studies have shown that a person who attempts strangulation is more likely eventually to murder the person they earlier tried to strangle. There are no gender or socioeconomic barriers when it comes to domestic violence – everyone is affected either directly or indirectly. I urge everyone to attend The Clothesline Project, if nothing else than to get more educated about this issue.

    • You are welcome. And thank YOU and your congregation for taking a stand on this important issue of domestic violence by helping to bring The Clothesline Project to Owatonna. To remain silent is not an option. We must educate ourselves and stand strong and give support and help to those who need our compassion and care. That includes both victims and their families.

      I was saddened to read the article, http://www.southernminn.com/owatonna_peoples_press/news/local/article_bf88d770-472d-5be3-8665-b1fd67f9f96a.html, in the Owatonna People’s Press about the attempted strangulation. But not surprised. Every single week, it seems, I read/hear of domestic assault cases in my community. You are correct in stating that attempted strangulation is more likely to lead to eventual murder. It does not take “much” to kill an individual by strangulation.

      You are correct, too, in stating that this crime knows no socioeconomic barriers. I expect every single person reading this comment or blog post knows of someone who has been a victim of domestic abuse/violence.

      Again, thank you for speaking out on this issue and bringing The Clothesline Project to Central Park in Owatonna this Sunday.

  4. OMGOSH,
    my sister’s t-shirt is part of the Clothesline Project. We added it about 4 years ago!
    thank you so much for your voice, darling! xxxx love from Duluth.

  5. Beth Ann Says:

    I did not manage to see it when it was in Mason City but after speaking with Mary I understand that this is not a “fun” exhibit at all and that the shirts are basically “guarded” as means to offer support and protection to those who have made them or who have them made to signify a loved one. It is a serious problem which you have broached before here on your blog as as advocate for all who are affected with this horrible epidemic. Thank you for your highlighting yet another way that folks can be a part of making a difference in this endless cycle of violence.

  6. What a great way to raise awareness.

  7. Sue Ready Says:

    i will chime in on everyone else’s thoughts. Great piece to raise awareness-such a creative idea. And I like the part it is a traveling exhibit. Thanks to you for posting this very worthy blog.


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