Sara 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 Time.com’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.
Although I agree that domestic violence and abuse should be placed in the public eye, I do not agree with the overall tone of this article. Even in a few sentences, the reader sees the all-to-common “victim blaming” that is so invasive and destructive to our society. I did not see a single sentence that held the male directly accountable for his abusive actions. Instead, the author writes, “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.” This author CLEARLY does NOT understand the complicated dynamics of domestic violence and coercive control. Thus, I question ACE’s endorsement of these sentiments, which are not grounded in solid academic research.
No human being asks to be abused. The abuse is the fault of the perpetrator, not the victim(s). It is also well known that domestic batterers RARELY respond positively to “help.” As a society, we need to wake up and smell the coffee: the only way to protect victims of domestic violence is to provide protection for those victims, and punish the perpetrators. Collectively, we need to send the unwavering message to batterers that there is absolutely NO excuse and NO defense for their behavior…..and we will no longer put up with it….period.
The US is incredibly remote from ending these problems. Many abused spouses are afraid to leave their batterers because law enforcement and the family courts are failing them miserably. Batterers are VERY successful at utilizing these agencies to maintain control over their victims. The latest statistics that I have seen state that approximately 90% of abusers who challenge child custody are able to convince courts to grant them custody of their children (the abusers cry “false allegations” and “parental alienation” to justify their actions and to convince the courts that they are the parent more suited to maintain custody of their children).
So many say, “Well, she (or he….the abused person) should just leave the abuser.” I am guessing that this is why the author stated “Some people might think that removing the children from their mother would be best.” Such insinuations demonstrate ignorance of the fact that most women who are killed by their abusers are killed when they try to leave. If they do leave, the victims often do not have the means to pay an attorney thousands of dollars to wage a custody battle. The victims are at a very high risk of losing their children to their batterers….if that happens, then how can the protective parent PROTECT their children?
Thanks for your comment, Kristi: Here’s another story you might be interested in:
Violence is men’s fault, says Dallas mayor: “We’ve created those tradition”