Family Violence


This is excerpted from Time magazine:

On June 25, 2013, Sara Naomi Lewkowicz won the 2013 Ville de Perpignan Rémi Ochlik Award for her work documenting Domestic Violence, to be awarded later this year at Visa Pour l’Image in Perpignan.

Photographer Sara Naomi Lewkowicz has continued to document the story of Maggie and her life since November 2012, when she was the victim of a violent attack by her now ex-boyfriend Shane. In an assignment for TIME in March 2013, Lewkowicz visited Maggie and her family in Alaska to document their life as they continue to move on from the incident.

More than three months since the assault, Maggie has moved her family to Alaska to try to repair her marriage and give the children a chance to be closer to their father. Maggie and her husband met at 14. She said they’d been on and off since eighth grade, yet they always seem to find their way back to one another.

Domestic violence is often shielded from public view. Usually, we only hear it muffled through walls or see it manifested in the faded yellow and purple bruises of a woman who “walked into a wall” or “fell down the stairs.” Despite a movement to increase awareness of domestic violence, we still treat it as a private crime, as if it is none of our business.

During my time as a freelance photojournalist and as a Master’s candidate at Ohio University, one of the biggest challenges of my career came in November of 2012, while working on a project about the stigma associated with being an ex-convict. Suddenly, an incident of domestic violence unexpectedly became my business.

I had met Shane and Maggie two-and-a-half months before. Southeastern Ohio was still warm that time of year and brimming with small regional festivals. I had gone to the Millersport Sweet Corn Festival to shoot my first assignment for an editorial photography class. Almost immediately, I spotted a man covered in tattoos, including an enormous piece on his neck that read, “Maggie Mae.” He was holding a beautiful little girl with blonde curls. His gentle manner with her belied his intimidating ink, and I approached them to ask if I could take their portrait.

I ended up spending my entire time at the fair with Shane, 31, and his girlfriend Maggie, 19. Maggie’s two children, Kayden, four, and Memphis, nearly two, were not Shane’s, but from her then-estranged husband.

Shane and Maggie had started dating a month prior to meeting me, and Shane told me about his struggles with addiction and that he had spent much of his life in prison. Maggie shared her experience losing her mother to a drug overdose at the age of eight, and having the challenges of raising two small children alone while their father, who was in the Army, was stationed in Afghanistan. Before they drove home, I asked if I could continue to document them, and they agreed.

I intended to paint a portrait of the catch-22 of being a released ex-convict: even though they are physically free, the metaphorical prison of stigma doesn’t allow them to truly escape. That story changed dramatically one night, after a visit to a bar.

In a nearby town where Shane had found temporary work, they stayed with the kids at a friend’s house. That night, at a bar, Maggie had become incensed when another woman had flirted with Shane, and left. Back at the house, Maggie and Shane began fighting. Before long, their yelling escalated into physical violence.

Shane attacked Maggie, throwing her into chairs, pushing her up against the wall and choking her in front of her daughter, Memphis.

After I confirmed one of the housemates had called the police, I then continued to document the abuse — my instincts as a photojournalist began kicking in. If Maggie couldn’t leave, neither could I.

Eventually, the police arrived. I was fortunate that the responding officers were well educated on First Amendment laws and did not try to stop me from taking pictures. At first, Maggie did not want to cooperate with the officers who led Shane away in handcuffs, but soon after, she changed her mind and gave a statement about the incident. Shane pled guilty to a domestic violence felony and is currently in prison in Ohio.

The incident raised a number of ethical questions. I’ve been castigated by a number of anonymous internet commenters who have said that I should have somehow physically intervened between the two. Their criticism counters what actual law enforcement officers have told me — that physically intervening would have likely only made the situation worse, endangering me, and further endangering Maggie.

I have continued to follow Maggie since the abuse, and I’ve also begun working closely with photographer Donna Ferrato, who first began documenting domestic violence 30 years ago.

Since that November night, Maggie has moved to Alaska to be with the father of her two children, who is stationed in Anchorage. In March, I will travel to Alaska to document Maggie as she tries to put the pieces of her family and life back together. My goal is to examine the long-term effects of this incident on her current relationship, her children, and her own sense of self. Devoted to revealing these hidden stories of domestic abuse, Maggie asked me to move forward with this project and to tell her story, because she feels the photographs might be able to help someone else.

“Women need to understand this can happen to them. I never thought it could happen to me, but it could,” she told me. “Shane was like a fast car. When you’re driving it, you think ‘I might get pulled over and get a ticket.’ You never think that you’re going to crash.”

The Violence Against Women Act, which provides funding to help victims of domestic violence, was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, and is now up for re-authorization. Read more about the law and why it’s currently stuck in Congress.

Sara Naomi Lewkowicz is a photographer and first year graduate student at Ohio University in Athens.

UPDATE: Readers who feel they–or people they know–need assistance can call the National Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.

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I wanted to share the above story because it is true. Violence against women is being reported more often and happening more often. The FBI statistics show that a woman was beaten every eleven seconds. Now a woman is beaten every nine seconds. These are cases that are reported. Many women are much too terrified to tell anyone and they still love the abuser and they continue to convince themselves that it won’t happen again. He will always tell her that. And he will be loving and bring gifts and they will have what we call “the honeymoon phase”. This part of the cycle of violence can last for an undetermined amount of time. But, I can assure you from twenty plus years  of experience, it never ends. Unless he kills her.

Beatings can last for an entire lifetime.

Beatings can last for an entire lifetime.

As the honeymoon phase is coming to an end, tension begins to build between the man and woman. She is aware of the escalation of tension, but she doesn’t want to have to look at the reality. He will become impatient with the children. He will begin to complain again about her cooking, the way she irons his shirts, the neighbor who asked how she was. Jealousy is often a trigger. The abuser wants to know where she is at every moment and whom she is talking to and what they talked about. He has a deep need to control. The abuser also never takes responsibility for his actions. Everything bad that happens in his job or with the neighbors or in the house is everyone else’s fault. His boss picks on him. He is upset because the neighbors forgot to put out the trash.

As the tension continues to increase it becomes harder and harder to anticipate his moods. More things upset him. He may begin swearing at the woman and/or at the children. If he doesn’t like dinner, he may throw his plate of food or smear it all over the woman’s face. There may be a slap or two or a push or shove. It isn’t full abuse. But the tension continues to build.

You Can't Beat a Woman.

You Can’t Beat a Woman.

Then one day, he goes into active abuse. It might be hair pulling, swearing, punching, kicking, slapping, spitting, it can also include cutting her with a knife, threatening to kill her. Holding a gun to her head for hours while she is consumed with fear and terror. He will talk to her about how she is going to die. He may even play Russian Roulette to intimidate her. The twenty plus years I worked in Domestic Violence have given me many many stories. I remember them all clear as a bell. After the active abuse phase, they hit the honeymoon phase again. It is a deadly, painful cycle that must either end in her leaving and going to a shelter for help and protection. Or he will kill her. ( In my time, I lost two women. They didn’t listen.) Or in her fear, she will kill him.

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In 1994, we, the National Organization of Women put on a rally in Washington D.C. Thousands of women came from all over the country. They brought t-shirts in memory of someone they knew who had died due to Domestic Violence or that were survivors of Domestic Violence. We strug clothes lines on the Mall and the women hug the shirts they had decorated in memory of mothers, sisters, friends, cousins and the survivors celebrated their freedom from fear. When all the shirts were hung up and the women were walking around looking at them, you just couldn’t help but cry at all of the wasted lives. Women and children deserve to live without fear or violence.

You can't beat a woman!

You can’t beat a woman!

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                                                                                                                  Break the silence, stop the violence 

Sex Trafficking Victims Rescued


The Abuse Expose' with Secret Angel

16 young victims…
girls ages 13 to 17.
Rescued this weekend
from the sex trafficking scene.
Traffickers control victims…
always moving them around.
Traveling city to city
so they won’t be found.
They follow the main events…
making frequent stops.
Keeping victims confused and scared…
and always avoiding the cops.

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10 things you need to know today: February 5, 2014


The Fifth Column

The Week

The CBO says ObamaCare will result in fewer workers, the Senate approves the long-delayed farm bill, and more

1. CBO says ObamaCare will mean two million fewer full-time workers
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office released a report predicting that because of the Affordable Care Act, the economy will have 2.3 million fewer full-time workers in 2021, partly due to some opting to work fewer hours to avoid losing Medicaid or insurance subsidies. Republicans said that proved ObamaCare was a job killer; the White House said it indicated Americans will no longer be “trapped in a job” to avoid losing health coverage. [The Washington Post]
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2. The Senate passes the once-stalled farm bill
The Senate approved the long-delayed $1 trillion farm bill on Tuesday, sending it to President Obama, who is expected to sign it. The bill renews funding for agriculture, dairy production, foreign food…

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