This Valentine’s Day, Mock Domestic Violence at a Museum! (Updated)

HollabackDC, a grassroots organization that is “invested in making the public spaces of the DC metro area safe for women and LGBTQ individuals” just tweeted something interesting:

Domestic violence ain't a crime of passion; it's a crime power and control. Let a DC museum know that here:
Holla Back DC!

That link takes you to a petition calling out a certain Penn Quarter museum for a hurtful holiday offering, which starts tomorrow:

The National Crime and Punishment Museum mocks the seriousness of intimate partner violence by romanticising such homicides as crimes of “passion.” The Valentine’s weekend exhibit “Crimes of Passion” makes light of a crime that affects thousands of Americans of all races, socioeconomic classes, ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, and abilities.

Here’s how the Museum sells it:

…this Valentine’s Day, those darker romantics among us have a new way to show their love for their significant other, courtesy of the National Museum of Crime and Punishment. Back by popular demand, couples are invited this Valentine’s Day weekend to visit the museum and experience “Crimes of Passion.”

Upon entering the museum, our on-staff wardens will bind couples together and lead them on their way to tour the three floors of the museum…special exhibit boards placed throughout explaining various crimes of passion, many of which took place in the D.C. metropolitan area. Couples will delight their dark side with true stories such as the “Valentine’s Vampire,” all while being bound to one another during this unique Valentine’s Day journey.

The cost is $30.00 per couple and includes a pair of souvenir handcuffs.

So, stories of domestic violence are a way to “delight” one’s “dark side” or “show love”? HollabackDC’s blog counters that pitch with a sobering statistic:

Intimate Partner Violence results in three (3) homicides in the United States every day. These lives are not simply snuffed out as acts of “passion,” but are the horrific results of sustained patterns of psychological, sexual, and physical abuse as a means of sustaining power and control in an intimate relationship.

One of HollabackDC’s founders, Chai Shenoy, points out how unfortunate this exhibit is, especially for a museum which exists to educate patrons about the history and consequences of crime:

It’s unfortunate that after years of working on changing the culture around intimate partner violence, having law enforcement, the judicial system, and other agencies take it seriously, the National Crime and Punishment museum creates an exhibit making light of one of the most common crimes.

If a museum that chronicles crime and punishment doesn’t take intimate partner violence seriously, it won’t take sexual assault, stalking, street harassment, dating violence, seriously either.

I asked the Museum to comment, but I am still waiting for a response. The Museum of Crime & Punishment just sent me this statement from Janine Vaccarello, their COO:

People have expressed their concerns to us about the potential to misinterpret our “Crimes of Passion” event, and we have taken those concerns quite seriously. Domestic violence is not a crime of passion, but rather a pervasive social illness that requires serious attention from communities across the country. In no way does this event condone or promote domestic violence, and in fact, we will have information onsite at the museum during the event regarding this sensitive and important subject. We have been in communications with the D.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence to make sure all concerns are properly addressed concerning this matter.