Minneapolis Park Board approves funds for sexual violence survivors memorial

It could be the first of its kind nationwide -- a public memorial sculpture honoring survivors of sexual violence.

Wednesday night, the Minneapolis Park Board reviewed a proposal for a memorial at Boom Island Park. The organization Break the Silence proposed the idea in an effort to help victims of domestic and sexual assault. But first, it needs the support and funding from the community.

Survivors came forward at Wednesday’s meeting, asking members to vote on donating about $160,000 of public funds to help build a memorial for survivors at Boom Island Park.

Park Board Commissioners voted 5-4 to explore public funding options, and two members even admitted to being survivors themselves.

Rape victims spoke out at the meeting and said they’re surprised it’s so controversial, particularly with the female board members. 

Commissioner Latrisha Vetaw even admitted the national #MeToo movement motivated her to share her story of assault, but still voted against the funding.

"I am a supporter of this project going forward, but I am concerned about the precedent we set for others," Vetaw said.

Break the Silence founder Sarah Super said the Park Board's vote on the memorial shows their solidarity with survivors like herself.

“I think the Park Board adds values and validation in a way never seen by survivors of sexual violence by an investment to this project," Super said.

But other female survivors were upset that nearly all of the women on the board declined to donate the funds; they applauded the men for stepping up.

"It was really great to have the men be allies in this, and so that was really powerful," a survivor said.

Commissioner Londel French said for him, voting to help build the memorial for survivors of sexual assault is another step forward for social justice.

“Right now is the right time to do this--with the #MeToo movement--you need to just take what's in your pocket and do the right thing,” French said.

If Break the Silence and other groups can reach their $490,000 goal, they hope to break ground this year.