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Museum's handcuffed tour comes under fire

Saturday - 2/12/2011, 10:50am  ET

crime and punishment museum (WTOP Photo/Max Smith)
Admission to the museum includes souvenir handcuffs. (WTOP Photo/Max Smith)
Max Smith, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - You might think it's a cute idea -- getting handcuffed to your sweetheart to go through a museum about crime -- but this Valentine's promotion is getting attacked by one anti-domestic violence group.

The National Museum of Crime and Punishment has run its "Crimes of Passion" exhibit for two years without a problem, but this year it's drawn complaints from people, such as Chai Shenoy, co-founder of Holla Back DC.

"We find [it] really reprehensible to us this exhibit is mocking the lives of people who have died due to domestic violence," Shenoy says.

But the museum says there's nothing wrong with the exhibit, which has couples get handcuffed together to go through the museum, which adds posters on crimes of passion, such as John Hinckley Jr.'s assassination attempt on then-President Ronald Reagan to the usual installations.

There also are some broken heart logos slapped onto some of the permanent installations, including those about Bonnie and Clyde and the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

"We've never had any issues," Chief Operating Officer Janine Vaccarello says.

"The actual event itself we don't focus at all on domestic violence."

But there is information about domestic violence on the museum's website now, and there are handouts on the subject for visitors to take on the way out.

Those additions aren't enough to placate Shenoy.

"We want to take this one step further. We don't want this type of exhibit to come back, especially not around Valentine's Day," says Shenoy.

But Vaccarello says she won't change the museum's plans.

"I'm not canceling the event. There are so many people that are looking forward to it."

So it will go ahead as planned Saturday, Sunday and Monday evenings. Admission is $30 per couple, and includes souvenir handcuffs. Visitors can upgrade to a furry version for $1 more.

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)