Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The profoundly powerful & personal Clothesline Project July 27, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Clothesline Project, music art


AMELIA, BEVERLY, DORIS, Katie, Prince Pope…from places like Apple Valley, Springfield, Worthington, Farmington, St. Paul and elsewhere in Minnesota…


Clothesline Project, 1 in 3 stats


In all, 23 names. Twenty-three women, children and men who lost their lives in Minnesota last year as a result of domestic violence.


Clothesline Project, 2 lines of t-shirts


To hear those names read Sunday afternoon against a backdrop of 60 white t-shirts fluttering in the breeze marked a powerful moment as the Crisis Resource Center of Steele County, Redeemer Lutheran Church and the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women brought The Clothesline Project to Owatonna’s Central Park.

The Rev. Kirk Griebel spoke to the group, read a mayoral proclamation and led a prayer.

The Rev. Kirk Griebel spoke to the group, read a mayoral proclamation and led a prayer.

The t-shirts, strung on clotheslines between trees, are “a powerful and safe witness to those who have lost their lives through domestic violence,” the Rev. Kirk Griebel said.


Clothesline Project, Miranda Schunk


He is right. To see those shirts with names and art emblazoned thereon, to read dates and details and the horrors of the victims’ deaths makes a visually powerful statement. Domestic violence becomes up close and personal.


Clothesline Project, Margie Brown Holland


Clothesline Project, info about Margie


So personal for me that I noted two shirts honoring Margie Brown Holland and her unborn daughter, Oliva, murdered by Margie’s husband. Margie’s dad once lived across the street from me in Faribault.


Clothesline Project, Rainya and Komel


Clothesline Project, Anarae Schunk


Clothesline Project, Chris Panitzke


I recognized so many names from media reports—Raniya and Komel Crowley, dead at the hands of their father/husband: Anarae Schunk; Christopher Panitzke…


Clothesline Project, Dearest Poppy


Words of love and grief and hope that touch the soul for the lives lost for those forever changed by the violence.

Owatonna Police Chief Keith Hiller addresses the topic of domestic violence.

Owatonna Police Chief Keith Hiller addresses the topic of domestic violence. “I will continue to pray,” he said, “that we don’t lose anyone else (to domestic violence) in our beautiful community of Owatonna.”

To hear Owatonna Police Chief Keith Hiller’s plea to “break the silence,” to understand that domestic violence is a community-wide problem is a statement worth repeating. In 2014, his department responded to 184 calls of aggravated and other assaults, many involving domestic violence. He confirmed that in the field of law enforcement, more officers are killed while responding to domestic violence calls than any other type. Family dynamics, weapons, chemical dependency and mental health issues are often involved in these heated situations, he explained.


Clothesline Project, in her honor


In a particularly chilling comment, Chief Hiller noted that in cases of strangulation, a matter of seconds may determine whether a victim survives or a t-shirt would be hung on the clothesline. Life and death in the hands of an abuser. Seconds.


Clothesline Project, daughter, sister


The police chief called for awareness and prevention, of working together. On Sunday afternoon in Owatonna, 60 t-shirts bannered that message in a deeply personal and powerful way.




Clothesline Project, Kiela Gem


Clothesline Project, pink shirt


Laci Brune, sexual assault coordinator for the Crisis Resource Center of Steele County, reads the names of those who died as a result of domestic violence in Minnesota in 2014.

Laci Brune, sexual assault coordinator for the Crisis Resource Center of Steele County, reads the names of those who died as a result of domestic violence in Minnesota in 2014. She told attendees that, on average, a woman will leave her abuser seven or eight times before she finally leaves for good.

Details on a t-shirt.

Details on a t-shirt honoring Nancy A. Sullivan, 57, of Shoreview, who died on June 4, 2013. These words are written on her shirt: “Safety is a basic human right!”


Clothesline Project, t-shirts in a row


Clothesline Project, t-shirts in a row, green design


Clothesline Project, Never forget


FYI: If you are in a relationship that doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. If your gut is telling you something is wrong, trust your instincts. If words and behavior differ, if red flags are popping up, if you feel like your partner may be lying or using you, believe yourself, not him/her.

Domestic abuse is about control and manipulation. It can take the forms of physical (including sexual), mental, emotional, financial and spiritual abuse.

If you are in immediate danger, call 911. Have a safe plan to leave. When you leave an abuser, it is the most dangerous time for you.

Seek help from a local resource center or safe house. Or call the National Domestic Violence Helpline at 1-800-799-7233. You deserve to be free.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Thrivent Financial funded bringing The Clothesline Project to Owatonna.


38 Responses to “The profoundly powerful & personal Clothesline Project”

  1. That’s a great project. We did it in Wgtn a couple years ago. Lovely and important post.

    • It’s the type of project that makes an impact. I woke up at 3 a.m. and couldn’t fall back asleep for thinking of all those names and stories on those t-shirts. Everyone needs to see The Clothesline Project. It’s that powerful.

  2. Marneymae Says:

    Powerful & heartbreaking & poignant

  3. So Powerful and Speaks LOUDLY on so many levels – thanks so much for sharing and spreading DV awareness!

  4. Beth Ann Says:

    What a sobering post this one is but a necessary one to share this epidemic. A lot of time and thought and energy goes into doing these exhibits and the emotions that are associated with it must be overwhelming at times. Thank you for sharing such a powerful event today.

    • You are welcome. Seeing all those t-shirts, reading those names, reading the thoughts, hearing the speakers, listening to audience members, it was all so heartwrenching, so frightening, yet good to know projects like this exist to break the silence.

  5. Copying for my facebook DV page. I can’t say much more. Very emotional. xxx

  6. Thank you, Audrey, for your presence at our event along with your husband, Randy and for all the pre-event publicity you gave us. Many of us take our personal safety for granted. Those who are in abusive situations live in fear every day that something they say or do might subject them to further abuse. Their abusers then try to convince them that the violence was their fault. No one ever deserves to be beaten for speaking up for themselves.
    Here is a link to an article in the Owatonna newspaper telling about two of the people whose commemorative shirts are pictured above who have ties to Owatonna: http://www.southernminn.com/owatonna_peoples_press/article_3e6ec61c-3c47-5c37-a91b-9062a6a30a1d.html

    • I was glad I could be there yesterday to cover this important event. Thank you and your congregation at Redeemer and the Crisis Resource Center of Steele County for bringing The Clothesline Project to Owatonna. It was certainly an impressive exhibit that really hit home because it’s so deeply personal. The discussion yesterday was also valuable. Thank you also to your wife, Susan, for volunteering and to the young man from Redeemer and to Laci and any others involved.

      I appreciate the link to the story in the Owatonna paper. This is an issue which impacts so many, no matter where we live.

  7. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    Words fail me at the moment but thank you for sharing and spreading the word!!!

  8. Dan Traun Says:

    Terribly sad that these tragedies continue to happen. What a wonderful project to continue to heighten awareness.

    • Yes, to see all those t-shirts, to read those names…sad, so sad. And when you have connection to some of those who died, it truly deepens the sadness.

      This is one outstanding project and I applaud all those who speak for their loved ones via the messages written on these t-shirts. Their voices are heard. Loud and strong.

  9. Thread crazy Says:

    What a powerful message those tshirts send….so sad it had to be ..wish somehow they could have been prevented. Thanks for spreading the word, and maybe, just maybe, someone reading your blog will realize they are in an abusive relationship and seek help. Great post Audrey.

  10. WOW… Very powerful messages and stories. What a great way to bring attention to the issue

  11. I wrote something a while ago on this subject (I’ll have to dig deep into the archives to find it) but the gist of it was.. If he hits you once, he’ll hit you again. Don’t give him that opportunity. A leopard cannot change its spots and neither can the brute. One thing though Audrey, on the man Christopher Panitzke, I would have liked to have heard the details of that situation, it seems to be a rarity when a man is the victim of domestic violence rather than the perpetrator.

  12. Littlesundog Says:

    I’m late getting to this – my gosh – this really makes it “real” when you see the number of people who have lost lives in family abuse. We are used to seeing it on the news almost daily, but when you look at loss at a gathering like this… and you move from victim to victim along the clothesline, it really sinks in. Your FYI words are of great wisdom. These “flags” and gut feelings are the indicators we need to be teaching our children.

  13. llambart Says:

    Reblogged this on leahlambart and commented:
    Very powerful and moving event.

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