Story of domestic violence chronicled in stunning photos

dvSara Naomi Lewkowicz, a photographer and first-year graduate student at Ohio University in Athens, has produced a series of 39 gripping photos that tell the all-too-common story of domestic violence.

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.

Published on’s Lightbox section, Lewkowicz also provides the chronology of the relationship of two people, Shane, 31, and Maggie, 19, and two children, Kayden, 4, and Memphis, nearly 2, whom Maggie had with her then-estranged husband.

For people who are tuned into the long-term effects of adverse childhood experiences, these photos display two people caught in the act of passing on their unstated and unresolved adverse childhood experiences to two children who deserve a better life. In some communities, domestic violence does not rise to the level that child protective services consider intervening. It’s so painfully obvious here that it is.

Some people might think that removing the children from their mother would be best, but that would only traumatize them further. Everyone in this story, this entire family, like so many others, needs help. Otherwise that little boy and that little girl are likely to grow up to be Shane and Maggie.

What is ACEs? A new CDC site, infographic explains adverse childhood experiences

The CDC launched a new web site called “Child Maltreatment is a Public Health Issue“. It’s aimed at public health departments to encourage them to become more active in preventing child maltreatment. More information about what the department provides, after these screen-grabs from the site’s infographic that provide a good overview of the CDC’s groundbreaking Adverse Childhood Experiences Study.


Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Continue reading

Pre-war trauma affects soldiers’ PTSD; DV top cause of murders in VA county; Tarpon Springs 10K peace flag project

soldierWhy some soldiers develop PTSD while others don’t — — “Pre-war vulnerability is just as important as combat-related trauma in predicting whether veterans’ symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will be long-lasting, according to new research published in Clinical Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.” Pre-war vulnerability includes childhood physical abuse and family substance abuse.

This echoes recent research on Canadian soldiers: “ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) are associated with several mood and anxiety disorders among active military personnel. Intervention strategies to prevent mental health problems should consider the utility of targeting soldiers with exposure to ACEs.”

fairfax2Domestic violence top cause of homicides in affluent Fairfax County (VA) in 2009 — — “Eight of the 14 homicides in Fairfax County in 2009 stemmed from a family dispute and most of the victims were women. A 2012 review by a special committee the Board of Supervisors established found that only three of the victims ever contacted police and only one had a protective order prior to dying.” The report itself (FairfaxDVReview.pdf) is interesting, thorough and well-written.

tarponTarpon group plans display of 10,000 ‘peace flags’ — — “An effort to foster community awareness for people living through the effects of traumatic life experiences took center stage during Tuesday’s Tarpon Springs City Commission meeting. Mayor David Archie officially proclaimed the week of April 5-8 as a time to recognize the Peace 4 Tarpon Peace Flags Project. The initiative’s goal is to display 10,000 handmade flags throughout that week. By doing so, Peace 4 Tarpon organizers hope the flags — each a unique work of art— will resonate with passersby to make Tarpon Springs a more trauma-informed community.” Tarpon Springs, FL, declared itself a trauma-informed community in 2011.

Blaming the victims…even the children


Used as the illustration to the poem, “I Want Missed Connections in Brooklyn”

Until we understand the etiology of a disease or condition, we tend to blame the victim. It seems to be human nature.

In the mid-1800s, people thought that if you came down with cholera, a disease caused by bacteria, it was your fault. Those who came down with cholera “deserved” it. Some people thought it was caused by immoral living, including not attending church. During New York City’s cholera epidemic in 1832, according to New York Times reporter John Noble Wilford, the director of New York City’s historical society wrote:

 “Those sickened must be cured or die off, & being chiefly of the very scum of the city, the quicker [their] dispatch the sooner the malady will cease.”

In the 1980s, the same reaction occurred when the AIDS epidemic, caused by a virus, came to light. It was commonly regarded as a disease of gay men, whose “immoral” lifestyle was to blame.

People who are violent and/or victims of violence, especially within families, are generally regarded as entirely to blame for their actions. Men are “evil” or “bad” because they abuse (most abuse in families is carried out by men). Women are “stupid” for staying in the relationship. But epidemiological, neurobiological and epigenetic research is showing that behaviors, brains and genes are shaped early in childhood, and that without intervention or support, the likelihood of a child who witnesses and/or experiences abuse continuing on a path to abusing or becoming a victim of abuse increases substantially.

So, it’s no wonder that, generally speaking, if children behave “badly”, our systems blame them for it and slap labels on them: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), conduct disorder (CD), mood disorder (MD), oppositional defiance disorder (ODD). They also hold the child responsible for changing her or his behavior — either with drugs or therapy — and, except in cases of obvious and repeated child abuse, don’t look to see if the environment in which the child lives needs to change, too.

Some interesting research is emerging that’s taking a more holistic approach. According this recent overview of a study of 2,422 children who were treated at four Indiana pediatric clinics, researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis found that “children exposed to both parental violence and depression before the age of 3 were significantly more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) before they were 6…”

In another overview of a study at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, researchers following 320 children found that in “children whose families were investigated by child protective services for suspected abuse and where there had also been reports of intimate partner violence, cessation of the violence led to an 11.9% decrease” in withdrawal and depression in children, and nearly a 20% decrease in aggression and anger. These changes lasted throughout the length of the study — seven years.

The researchers also asked the caregivers who’d been investigated for abuse and violence how many had received referrals or services to help them stop the violence — only 11.5% had. That’s a shockingly low

Continue reading

Violence is men’s fault, says Dallas mayor: “We’ve created those traditions”

rawlingsDallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said something pretty interesting a couple of weeks ago. Violence is men’s fault, he declared. Men have to own up to it. Men have to change it.

According to this story by KERA reporter BJ Austin, this is exactly what Rawlings said:

“This violence is our fault. It’s not the women’s fault,” he said. “We have been the violent gender over the centuries, and we must own up to it. Tradition has enabled the action we see around us, and we’ve created those traditions. The culture of male violence has only been perpetuated by locker room talk, radio talk shows, video games, how fathers talk to sons, and our inability to deal with anger living deep inside.”

I fully recognize that women are capable of committing violence and do. And men are often victims of violence. However, there’s no denying that men carry out most of the gun violence, the rapes, and the assaults on women and children, who are usually members of their own family.  This post, however, isn’t about blame. It’s actually about moving on from blame.

What’s most significant about Rawlings’ statement is that — for a brief moment — someone swung the spotlight 180 degrees in talking about violence against women and children. Why is that a big deal?

Well, as we say in the South, let’s take a f’rinstance…..Let’s say that the media reported — and the community talked about — convenience store robberies and assaults the same way we talk about family violence. First, the local media wouldn’t report each robbery. We’d do a series every year during Convenience Store Robbery Awareness Month. The story package would focus only on the convenience store clerks: “Over the last year, 56 convenience store clerks were robbed and assaulted in OurFairCity. Half were beaten so badly that they were hospitalized. Because they could not return to work right after the robbery, they lost their jobs and could not pay the rent. There are not enough shelters in the city to house them and their children.”

In real life, convenience store robberies are reported more regularly than family violence, and the focus is on the perpetrator: “Joe Shmo was arrested last night. He is alleged to have robbed the Corner Convenience Store at the intersection of Main and Central. Convenience store clerk Randolph Bacon said Shmo held a gun to his head and knocked him unconscious after he opened the cash register. Off-duty policewoman Sue Smith happened to be in the store and arrested Shmo after he grabbed the cash.” Shmo’s arrest photo accompanies the story.

So, let’s swing that spotlight around in family violence, often referred to as the larger catch-all, IPV. Interpersonal violence refers to any violence between couples, married or not. The traditional report?

Continue reading

It’s the adults, stupid!; HBO child sex abuse doc; Philly gets $1.6m for trauma-informed care

With apologies to Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential slogan, “The economy, stupid!”, the CARE model developed at Cornell University can be summarized: “It’s the adults, stupid!”

The CARE model recognizes that troubled kids have histories of adverse childhood experiences, such as verbal abuse, living with an alcoholic or mentally ill parent, being homeless, etc. The approach shows that when adults change how they work with kids who are having troubles, to meet kids where they are, the kids do better. From The Beat, a great blog on the National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth site, here’s part of a transcript from a four-minute podcast with Bill Martin, executive director of the Waterford Country waterfordSchool, a Connecticut youth shelter, which began using the model three years ago:

And I think that when we brought this in, it just became … it caused us all to look at what we’ve been doing for the last ten or fifteen or twenty years and wonder if that was in the best interest of kids. And it did give permission to do some things that you weren’t really sure was okay historically….

It gave permission to excuse expectations sometimes. You get crazy around rule enforcement in group care. And that this was talking about kids that might not be able to meet the expectations, either in the moment or in general and teaching us to be able to amend those expectations to help the kids be successful, as opposed to kind of sanctioning them for not meeting their expectations.

It also really puts the responsibility for the change much more on the adult than some of the previous thinking had been, is that basically the program model is designed in the fact that kids will do well if they can. And if they’re not doing well, something has derailed them. And it’s really incumbent on us to find out what that is and meet the underlying needs. So that the kids can get back on track for more spontaneous development.

docHBO’s CHILD SEX ABUSE DOCUMENTARY, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, premiers Monday, Feb. 4. The synopsis:

…..investigates the secret crimes of Father Lawrence Murphy, a charismatic Milwaukee priest who abused more than 200 Deaf children

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: