She’s Gone – Testimony of a Viewer

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I never really thought about violence against women. It was one of those subjects, like car crashes or other peoples’ wars; abstract and distant, occasionally entering the consciousness but quickly ignored. See our short video at the end of the article.

This changed when I encountered the “She’s gone” project. It’s an installation which presents hanging clothes that were once worn by eleven young women, murdered by their partner or a relative. The clothes hang from the ceiling, swaying gently in a painful silence. One garment still carries the remains of a sweet perfume, the other a long strand of blond hair.

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Inside the swaying clothes was once a woman. They contained her body movements, her silhouette, the reflection she looked at in the bathroom mirror. The clothes held the smell of her body, showed her taste in clothes, the way she chose to present herself to the world, and especially what she was, and cannot be now that She’s gone.

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The hanging clothes of “She’s gone” are a silent testimony to lives that were ended abruptly and violently, and the remaining stories of absence and orphan hood they left behind. Attached to each garment is a small note with the name of the woman who was murdered, the date of the crime, the weapon used and the judicial sentence the perpetrator received for their murderous act.

Now, for the first time, I was able to understand – and was no longer able to ignore – the painful life stories of 11 women. Women who had a strong desire to live, to achieve, each had dreams, hopes and plans; each was unique, special in her own way, but all of whom shared the same cruel and all-too-common fate of a life cut short by gender-based violence.

As I walked amongst the abandoned clothes, a unique musical composition of lullabies played in 15 different languages – English, Hebrew, Arabic, Spanish, French, Turkish, Japanese, Farsi and others. These are lullabies that the young women will never be able to sing to their children, and a final tribute to their voices that have been forever silenced.

Violence against women is neither rare nor the private experience of a few unfortunate women.

A woman who is murdered by her husband is often seen in societies as the victim of a ‘romance’, or an ‘unhealthy relationship’. In some societies, the term ‘honor killings’ is commonly used under the incorrect assumption that murder brings about honor to a family, and not sorrow and loss. In the news, honor killings are dismissed as a marginal problem of immigrants or minority groups. But gender-based violence isn’t a marginal phenomenon – globally, 60,000 women are murdered every year. It must be said loud and clear: Violence against women is a wide social problem, that requires extensive solutions, recognition, budgeting resources, legislation and law enforcement.

There is a myth that violence against women doesn’t happen to ‘normal’ people.  Reality however reveals that violence against women is not limited to any specific community or social class, there is no ‘type’ of women who can find herself in a violent situation. Violence against women touches us all. The silent clothes in the “She’s gone” project could have easily once belonged to my mother, my sister, a friend. Perhaps the women who passed me by today in the supermarket, feels the cycle of violence tightening around her neck. Maybe he cut a distance friend’s credit card today, and she begged him not to beat her in front of the kids. Gender murder and violence against women occurs in every corner of our world.

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As I observed “She’s gone”, I tried to connect the pieces of information from the stories of each of the women. There seemed to be no cause and effect for what happened to them – their clothes presented a mosaic of diverse women, each one with her own narrative, whole and complete, yet compressed into the same gray statistic. In front of me were the clothes of a famous, beautiful, actress-model. Two young Ethiopian sisters aged 26 and 35. A well known socialite from Tel Aviv. In life, the only thing they had in common was the fact that they were women.

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Now, I look at my wardrobe and think about this important initiative, I know that I must do everything in my power to prevent other women from becoming victims to violence.

I won’t stop using my voice to help raise awareness, to motivate people around me to make meaningful action.

 

About She’s Gone

“She’s gone” is a travelling installation. The idea was born a year ago, following a horrendous murder of a mother and her children in a small town in the Northern part of Israel. Keren Yehezkeli Goldstein, a filmmaker, yoga teacher and mother, was deeply shaken by the violent murder and decided she can no longer remain silently passive.

She was determined to take action, to create a powerful image that will echo the same feelings and sense of urgency she felt, and urge people to take action against the global phenomenon of violence against women.

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Joined by a close group of friends, Keren created a powerful group of volunteers who contributed their unique skills to make She’s gone a reality.

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Over a period of 8 months, the team gathered clothes of deceased women from their families, travelling all across Israel – cities, towns and small villages.

Fatma Elhib

Keren recalls how the image came to mind: “I think the powerful visual image of empty garments resonates in every language, for all people, inviting viewers who care, to come along on the journey. The garment is in the center – it was supposed to protect her, to separate her body from the world, the thing that speaks of her without uttering a single word. Limor Rimok’s brown jeans, Iris Gorelik’s green t-shirt, the festive dresses of the young sisters Malakam and Salamak Tasara, Aala’s Hoodie, Dua’s black dress and even Dafna’s black faux fur coat. A knife, a hammer, a gun, or any other creative and cruel variation that enables a life to be taken; mark the items of clothing until their last breath. A garment cannot keep someone alive, but we can at least keep their memories alive”.

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“She’s gone” was hosted at the Israeli President’s Residence by the First Lady. It was presented to Ministers and Members of Parliament, and has been travelling across Israel in order to raise awareness of violence against women, especially among young people, and has also been presented in conferences outside of Israel.

What are our plans for the future?

The installation is currently scheduled to travel to additional cities around the world as our long term plan includes launching three new representations (NYC, Berlin, London to start).  We will search for local Ambassadors and invite relatives of murdered women to add their clothing garments to each local display.

We intend to create a tremendous memorial that will travel across the globe commanding the attention of the world to the silenced voices of those murdered. Ultimately, we will reach the United Nations on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which takes place on November 25 annually, presenting women’s clothing from all over the world.

How can you help?

Help us expand our reach and circles of influence.

If you know a family of a victim of gender violence who may wish to donate some clothes to the exhibition, please ask them to e-mail us or contact us via our Facebook page or through our website.

Please note that this is a private initiative which is privately funded thus far. As such, there are no political or organizational motives behind it. If you wish to make a donation please contact us directly.

Reference: “Lethal Violence against Women and Girls“, Geneva declaration official site, 2015.