Project raises awareness for domestic violence

Project raises awareness for domestic violence

Michaela Gaffke, Features Reporter

Fifteen shirts hung from a clothesline attached to the trees outside Minné Hall at Winona State University last Thursday, Oct. 12 and Friday, Oct. 13.

The Clothesline Project, coordinated by the Women’s Resource Center of Winona for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, highlighted victims who have been killed by domestic violence in Minnesota since Jan. 1, 2017.

The project originated in Hyannis, Massachusetts in 1990. A member of the Cape Cod’s Women’s Defense Agenda learned that while 58,000 United States soldiers were killed in the Vietnam War, 51,000 United States women were killed by intimate partners.

The Women’s Resource Center of Winona picked up the project in the early ‘90s and has been coordinating it every October since, according to Director Diana Miller. 

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), one-in-three female murder victims and one-in-eighteen male murder victims were killed by intimate partners.

Colorful shirts of different styles, donated by Winona Volunteer Services, fluttered with the wind, displaying information about each victim: their name, their age, date of their death, how they were killed and where it happened.

Senior psychology majors Alexis Olson and Kelly Brennan worked on the project this year and researched domestic violence victims to add more detail to the shirts.

“It was heartbreaking to hear all these stories,” Olson said. “A lot of articles I found about the victims were geared towards the perpetrator and not about the victim themselves. So it was hard to find details about who they were.”

Some of the shirts had other details, such as a painted on nail polish bottle on the shirt representing Michelle Le.

Le was a nail salon owner from Richfield, Minnesota. She would confide with her clients about the abuse she suffered from her husband, Tony. She was planning to divorce him when he strangled her to death on Sept. 26, 2017.

A polo shirt and two blouses hung together, representing Wade McIntosh and his daughters Maria and Olivia, who were murdered by one of Maria’s ex-boyfriends in St. Paul, Minnesota on April 7, 2017.

Maria’s ex-boyfriend wanted custody of their infant daughter and shot Maria, Wade and Olivia, along with Anita Sprosty, Wade’s ex-wife and Maria’s mother. Sprosty survived the attack.

The project hit some roadblocks since the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women doesn’t release the yearly Minnesota Femicide Report until October.

Olson and Brennan said they had to get the shirts done by Oct. 1, so they spent 13 hours in one weekend working on the shirts.

“Some reports are not concluded yet because it can take a while for the justice system to come to a conclusion of what happened,” Miller said. “The full information isn’t compiled from all of this year’s victims by October, but since it is domestic violence awareness month we want to show what has happened so far this year.”

This is the Clothesline Project’s fifth stop after Southeast Tech, the St. Charles Police Department, Winona Volunteer Services and Winona Senior High School. The project’s next stop is the Winona Historical Society, followed by the Maplewood Townhomes, the Family and Children’s Center, Cotter Senior High School and the Winona Area Learning Center.

“A memorial to those who have lost their lives is so impactful,” Miller said. “There is context so people can realize how complex the problem is and how widespread it is. It is not so easy to just leave, and often so dangerous it can result in death.”