Sara, Maggie, Shane, some internet asshats and a photo essay

Trigger warning- This post is about Domestic Violence.

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So while wandering around the internet a little while ago I stumbled upon an article about Sara Naomi Lewkowicz, a photographer who did a photo story on the relationship of a couple with entrenched domestic violence. She then had the photos published as the US government was debating the reauthorisation of the Violence Against Women Act.

Some of the photos are very confronting showing 31 year old Shane throwing his 19 year old girlfriend Maggie into kitchen cabinets, choking her, using his body to box her up in a corner and they even feature the couples 2 year old child stamping her feet when she sees what is going on.

When these photos were published by Time they left some details out so people looking for someone to blame had an easy copout- Sara the photographer. And did they blame Sarah? You bet they did.

They say that she did nothing, she preferred to get some great shots instead of helping Maggie, not knowing the fact she rang 911 after having to retrieve her phone from Shane during the height of the violence. They say that she should have put the camera down and tried to help not knowing that during the argument Shane gave Maggie the option of continuing in front of the camera or leaving the room to ‘discuss’ the matter privately. Maggie didn’t hesitate and chose to stay in front of the camera as it provided some level of safety knowing that he would hold back a bit if there were witnesses. They said that Sara was despicable for taking photos of the 2 year old girl watching her mother get beaten by her father and that Sara shouldn’t have continued taking photos and got the child out of the room. How were they to know that as soon as Sara and the other 2 adults witnessing the violence saw she was there the child she was removed the photo was taken as the person closest to her was reaching to pick her up.

But of course it wasn’t just the photographer’s fault! Maggie had her part to play as well. The asshats who felt the need to comment said Maggie should have seen it coming, she stays because she likes it and of course she is not the victim but in fact the perpetrator.

So if these people are to be believed the only person in that house at that time who is blameless for the despicable show of violence was Shane.

Aw fuck off.

The more that I look into this story the more angry I get, with Time, with internet wankers, with people who can’t simply understand that the whole reason that this photo essay was done was to show how horrible domestic violence is, to make you feel uncomfortable thinking that this still occurs to millions of women around the world- but also that it is still happening right here. But also to make you want to do something about it so it never happens again.

I am also getting angry at myself because I have just gone on a 500 word rant about the photography and some moronic responses to it- which is not what Sara wanted her work to be an argument about her. She wanted  to show Maggie’s story and to get people talking about domestic violence and to raise the profile of the issue. She also wants people to acknowledge Maggie left, and the strength that takes.

‘But why confront our discomfort about images when we can instead confront the photographer? Why challenge the perpetrators who commit, and the structures that underpin, this violence when we can blame its victims – and, when the evidence of violence is still too powerful, its witnesses?’

You can find more out about the photo essay here

You can find the photo essay here

You can find out more on dealing with domestic violence here

You can find national domestic violence hotline services  here

You can take the white ribbon pledge here

Mikaela Wangmann

National Women’s Officer 2013

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