Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Remembering those who died of domestic violence homicide in Minnesota January 30, 2017

Barb Larson. (Photo source: Boldt Funeral Home.)

Barb Larson. (Photo source: Boldt Funeral Home.)

TO THOSE WHO KNEW Barb Larson, she was classy, sassy, upbeat and kind, always smiling.

Tomorrow she will be among those remembered at the Domestic Violence Homicide Memorial at the St. Paul College Club in St. Paul. Barb was murdered on December 23, 2016, by her ex-husband at The Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism office where she worked. Richard Larson then turned the gun on himself.

Statistics on a The Clothesline Project t-shirt from the Minnesota Coaltition for Battered Women..

Statistics on a The Clothesline Project t-shirt from the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.

Barb’s name, and that of Minnesota’s 20 other 2016 victims of domestic violence homicide, will be read during the 4 p.m. memorial program. The January 31 memorial also includes The Clothesline Project, a display of personalized t-shirts honoring victims. That visual makes a strong impact. I know. I viewed a previous The Clothesline Project at a July 2015 event in Owatonna.

A graphic from the MCBW Facebook page promoting release of the 2016 Femicide Report.

A photo of the graphic published on the MCBW Facebook page promoting release of the 2016 Femicide Report.

Prior to the Tuesday afternoon memorial, the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women releases its 2016 Femicide Report, a compilation of information on intimate partner homicides in Minnesota. Erica Staab, executive director of HOPE Center in Faribault, is serving as the MCBW member program rep during that morning release to the media. She will also attend the afternoon memorial along with Rice County Blueprint for Safety Coordinator Sandra Seelhammer and, I expect, others from the Faribault community. Family and friends of all 21 victims were specifically invited to the public event.

Margie Brown Holland and her unborn daughter, Olivia, were honored at The Clothesline Project display this summer in Owatonna. The Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women coordinates the project to honor victims of domestic violence. Redeemer Lutheran Church brought the project to Owatonna this past summer.

Margie Brown Holland and her unborn daughter, Olivia, were honored at The Clothesline Project display in July 2015. Redeemer Lutheran Church brought the project to Owatonna. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.

I wish events like this were not needed, that domestic violence did not exist. But it does. And it affects all of us, directly or indirectly. My community understands that all too well with the death of Barb Larson in December and the murder of Faribault native Margie Brown Holland and her unborn baby, Olivia, in March 2013.

Clothesline Project, in her honor

Words on a t-shirt at a The Clothesline Project display in Owatonna in July 2015. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.

We all need to care—enough to educate ourselves so that we understand domestic violence. We need to stop blaming victims. We need to support victims/survivors and those who love them. We need a system that holds offenders accountable. We need to take a stand against domestic violence. We need to speak up, to end the silence.

A comment on the MCBW Facebook page from the daughter of a

A photo of a comment on the MCBW Facebook page honors Barbara Ann Wilson, murdered in April 2016 in Mankato.

FYI: The Tuesday, January 31, Domestic Violence Homicide Memorial runs from 3:30 – 5 p.m. at the St. Paul College Club, 990 Summit Avenue, St. Paul.

Please check back for information on the 2016 Femicide Report, which I will review upon its release.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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One father’s powerful story about domestic violence January 27, 2016

 

Margie Brown Holland and her unborn daughter, Olivia, were honored at The Clothesline Project display this summer in Owatonna. The Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women coordinates the project to honor victims of domestic violence. Redeemer Lutheran Church brought the project to Owatonna this past summer.

Margie Brown Holland and her unborn daughter, Olivia, were honored at The Clothesline Project display this summer in Owatonna. Margie is the daughter of my former neighbor Ron. The Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women coordinates the project to honor victims of domestic violence. Redeemer Lutheran Church brought the project to Owatonna.

JUST OFF THE TOP of my head, I can think of perhaps 20 family, friends and indirect acquaintances who have been victims of domestic abuse/violence. Nearly all survived; some did not.

Dan Kasper

Dan Kasper. Photo courtesy of Redeemer Lutheran Church/Dan Kasper.

On Sunday afternoon, January 31, Dan Kasper of Northfield will talk at a church in Owatonna about his daughter Becky, who was murdered in April 2013 by her ex-boyfriend. Dan’s personal story of “Finding hope in the midst of loss” is certain to make a powerful impact.

Last week I spoke with Dan in a 90-minute phone conversation. I didn’t take notes to shape this blog post. I only listened.

Another t-shirt from The Clothesline Project.

Another t-shirt from The Clothesline Project.

And what I heard was the strength of a father determined to honor his 19-year-old daughter by sharing his experiences. I learned of the warning signs Dan and his wife missed, mostly because they live in Minnesota and Becky was far away attending college in Arizona. I heard a father who, even through the worst pain a parent can experience, has risen up to make a difference.

I learned more about his precious Becky, how she was compassionate and caring and how she was trying to help her ex-boyfriend work through issues. Dan would later meet, face-to-face, with her killer in prison.

I heard a man of faith speaking to me.

I heard the anguish of a man abandoned by some friends after Becky’s death, but also the recipient of unexpected support from others.

I heard this father, a secondary victim of abuse, state that “you can’t rely on the system.”

I listened to a hard-working man from a small Midwestern college town tell me of the near financial ruin his family has faced since Becky’s death due to funeral costs, lost income, travel related expenses and more.

His story is powerful. If you live anywhere near Owatonna, plan to attend this 2 p.m. Sunday, January 31, presentation at Redeemer Lutheran Church, 1054 Truman Avenue. We all need to be educated about domestic violence/abuse. And I can’t think of anyone, other than a victim, more poised to educate us than a father who has lost his daughter to domestic violence.

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the logo

FYI: Dan and Sheryl Kasper have established the non-profit Becky Kasper Foundation to honor their daughter. Click here for more information.

If you are in an abusive relationship, seek help. You are so worth it. Contact a local crisis resource center or women’s shelter for help and support. If you are in immediate danger, call 911. Leaving an abuser is the most dangerous time; have a plan to leave safely.

Additional information is available, for abuse victims, family, friends and survivors by clicking on any of these links:

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women

NO MORE

Statistics on a The Clothesline Project t-shirt.

Statistics on a The Clothesline Project t-shirt.

Click here to read my July 2015 blog post about The Clothesline Project.

And click here to read the just-released Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women 2015 Femicide Report. Last year at least 34 people in Minnesota were killed due to domestic violence.
© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The profoundly powerful & personal Clothesline Project July 27, 2015

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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.

 

BONUS PHOTOS:

 

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.

 

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.