Display stands as a witness to the impact of domestic violence

WILLMAR -- Painted red, and standing at about eye-level for the average woman, 19 wooden silhouettes are positioned along the back wall in the lobby of the Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services building.

WILLMAR -- Painted red, and standing at about eye-level for the average woman, 19 wooden silhouettes are positioned along the back wall in the lobby of the Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services building.

They represent 19 of the 20 people who were killed in Minnesota from Oct. 1, 2005, to Sept. 30, 2006, in a partner-related murder.

The 20th victim, Kathryn Malli of Granger, was killed Sept. 30, after the Kandiyohi County maintenance crews had already completed work on the silhouettes. Malli's story of being killed by her husband is contained in a news clipping that's taped to a pillar in the lobby. The stories of the domestic murders of the others are taped to the chests of the wooden statutes.

The row of "silent witnesses" is a horrible reminder of the power of domestic abuse in Minnesota, said Janae Rambow, who works for the county's Public Health Department and oversaw the silhouette project.

"These witnesses are all silent now and we honor them and work to-wards eliminating this tragic loss by recognizing who they are and how they died," said Rambow, a soft-spoken woman with large, compassionate eyes.


"It's just amazing what they went through and how tragic their deaths were," she said.

Although there have been fewer deaths associated with domestic abuse this year than others in Minnesota, "The last couple months have been terrible and just discouraging," said Kathy Oxenreider, coordinator of the criminal justice intervention project, which is part of the the Shelter House in Willmar.

She said three women are murdered in the United States every day from domestic violence. Over a 2½-year span of time, she said, the number of women killed because of domestic abuse equals the number of victims in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America.

"Most of us don't think of it as terrorism. But it is terrorism in our own homes," she said. "It is a depressing picture."

Education about domestic abuse is the only way to stop it, said Oxendeider.

That's why the Kandiyohi County Coordinating Council for Domestic Violence, a committee comprised of agencies and entities that deal with domestic violence, is working to provide awareness and educational opportunities this month, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

On Saturday a new teen outreach group called Teens Respecting Other Teens Together, or TROTT, that is working to teach teens how to have respectful relationships, is hosting a "Walk for Peace" at Robbins Island. The walk begins at 11 a.m.

On Oct. 19 a memorial service will be held at noon at the Fairview Cemetery in Willmar to remember battered women who have been killed this year in Minnesota. The service will also honor those who have survived domestic abuse and are now living safer lives.


Rambow said the silhouettes will serve as a visual reminder that domestic violence is happening in our communities.

Of the 20 domestic homicides during the last year, nine happened in Greater Minnesota, including Redwood, Pope, Meeker and Renville counties. Nhia Xiong, 31, was killed June 7 by her husband in Walnut Grove; Kerri Robinson, 36, was killed Jan. 30 in Franklin by her boyfriend; and Linda Klyve, 47, was killed Dec. 18 by her ex-boyfriend in Rolling Forks Township in Pope County.

Most of the victims of domestic violence are women, but this year three of the 20 murders were men, including Randy Silbaugh, 46, who was killed by his girlfriend on April 23 in rural Litchfield.

"It's a very sad thing to need to acknowledge this happens," said Rambow.

The goal of the county's Coordinating Council for Domestic Violence is to eliminate domestic murders in Minnesota by the year 2010, said Corinne Torkelson, family services supervisor.

Torkelson said the statistics for partner-type murders do not include the number of children or other family or friends that have also been killed in the act of domestic violence.

She said nearly 10 percent of Kandiyohi County's child protection calls involve domestic violence.

Oxenreider said an important part of reducing domestic violence is to help the children who live with and learn about domestic violence in their own homes. Children who see one parent abuse another are more likely to be abusers, or live in an abusive situation, she said.


To help share the message of those who have been killed this year, and promote dialogue for addressing and stopping domestic violence, any, or all, of the silhouettes are available to organizations, churches or businesses to borrow and display, said Rambow, who praised the county maintenance crew for building the silent witnesses.

Rambow made soft, cloth bags to put the silhouettes in for transportation to not only keep the them from getting scuffed, but also to show respect and treat with tenderness the lost lives they represent.

Anyone interested in using the silhouettes can contact Rambow at the county Public Health office at 320-231-7860.

Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at or 320-894-9750
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