Sarah Super envisions a peaceful place where sexual assault survivors can heal and gather with others for reflection.
It would feature a circle of benches to make “space for truth-telling and dialogue” and a mosaic to show that “broken pieces can come together as something beautiful,” among other features. The permanent memorial honoring survivors would also offer a chance to raise awareness of sexual violence.
“There’s no right way to heal, but I do believe conversation is essential if we’re going to change the reality of sexual violence,” said Super, a sexual assault survivor and founder of Break the Silence, an organization that shares survivors’ stories.
The Minneapolis Park Board recently approved the idea — agreeing to give space for the memorial at Boom Island Park — and if fundraising is successful, Super and other project backers hope to complete the memorial as early as 2018.
The group had hoped to also get financial support from the Park Board. So far, Super and other backers of the memorial have raised $75,000 of the estimated $400,000 they need.
Commissioner Brad Bourn suggested the Park Board use reserve funds to contribute $150,000 to the memorial project, but the move was rejected by other board members.
Park Commissioner Liz Wielinski, who represents the area that includes Boom Island, said there are many projects in the park system that have been delayed and underfunded and suggested that the group talk to the Minneapolis Foundation for money.
“We’re here for you at the end,” Wielinski said. “But right now, I’m just not willing to fund this money at this time.”
Commissioners noted their personal support for the memorial.
Commissioner Meg Forney, who said she was almost sexually assaulted in high school, asked Super to send a donation envelope.
“I really appreciate you bringing this up,” Forney said. “It wasn’t even a remote conversation back in those days, and I don’t think it’s that much [different] today.”
Break the Silence has been leading the effort since 2015 with the help of a design team that includes Joan MacLeod of Damon Farber Landscape Architects and mosaic artist Lori Greene. The Park Board asked the group to complete fundraising and bring a final design for review by mid-August.
“It sounds as if they want us to do more fundraising before they give us some funds,” Super said. “While a matching donation would have been maybe helpful to motivate donors, I hope people will still be excited about investing in this project.”
Others expressed disappointment with the Park Board’s decision to not give financial support to the project.
“Nothing like this exists in our community and I think that it’s a pretty meaningful contribution. So it’s disappointing that there is yet another roadblock for [Super] to deal with there,” said Dena Ehrich, one of the founders of the Power of 100: Twin Cities Women Who Care, which gave nearly $30,000 to the memorial.
Ramsey County Commissioner Jim McDonough, who revealed in 2015 that he had been sexually abused as a child, said he would have liked to see the Park Board chip in on a project that will help survivors cope with the trauma of sexual assault and raise awareness of abuse.
“This project needs catalytic investment and it needs that first big one,” McDonough said. “It would have been great if the Park Board would have came forward with that big first donation.”