Photographer Captures Domestic Violence & Is Criticized for Not Stopping It

Heartbreaking 21

Domestic violence is an awful, ugly, brutal thing -- and it's usually suffered behind closed doors. It's a "dirty secret." But one photographer is bringing it to light with some very powerful images. The photographer, Sara Naomi Lewkowicz, was documenting the life of a man who had just been released from prison. Her original intent was to show how even when someone is released from prison, the stigma is such that it imprisons him forever. She ended up documenting his relationship with his girlfriend. And one night he and his girlfriend got into a fight -- which turned violent.

After her subjects Shane and Maggie returned home from a bar, where they'd gotten into an altercation because Maggie thought he was flirting with another woman, they began arguing. Then Shane attacked -- throwing Maggie up against furniture and a wall and choking her.

Unbearably, Maggie's 2-year-old daughter, Memphis, witnessed the entire incident. In fact, she tried to break it up by screaming and stomping; then she got in between them as they continued to fight and tried to comfort her mother, saying, "Don't cry, Mommy. I love you." Little Memphis has just been imprinted with a scene that will never fully leave her psyche.

Police officers arrived and arrested Shane. He pleaded with Maggie not to let them take him away, saying, "I love you! Tell them I didn't do this!"

But he was taken away. Then an officer photographed the bruises on Maggie's neck. The officer told her: "You know, he's not going to stop. They never stop. They usually stop when they kill you."

Eventually, Maggie left Shane and returned to her estranged husband, the father of her two young children. Shane pled guilty to a domestic violence felony charge and is in prison.

The photographer has been criticized for not jumping in to try and stop the attack. But police officers told her this probably would have just escalated it -- and put her at risk as well. She says her "photojounalist's instincts" took over and she just kept snapping. She did, however, make sure that a housemate had called police.

Maggie agrees that Sara should have taken the pictures. She thinks their publication will help other women.

This is why I'm not a photojournalist -- I absolutely would have stepped in -- and possibly that would have been the wrong thing to do. In fact, I have stepped in between domestic violence. So I know I would have done that here. And possibly made things worse, but that just would have been my natural instinct, one I wouldn't have been able to control. At the very least, I would have grabbed the child out of harm's way. But the sad thing is that stepping in usually doesn't help anyway -- the woman usually goes right back to her abuser and how many times can you put yourself in harm's way for someone?

I do not judge the photographer for not doing so -- I think it was really important to see these images -- though I'm not sure about including the children's faces. They are too young to make the choice about whether this is something they want the world to know about.

What would you have done? What do you think the photographer should have done?


Image via DoodleDeMoon/Flickr

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Wheep... Wheepingchree

I really wish I didn't look at those pictures.  It hurt so bad to see them.  I watched my mother get the shit beaten out of her for 3 years.  I'm so heartbroken to see that poor little girl.

Zenia6 Zenia6

The pictures were really hard to look at & my heart aches for that little girl.

nonmember avatar kaerae

Any cop will tell you the most dangerous call for them is a domestic. You DO NOT get in the middle of a domestic dispute and put yourself in danger.

Shandi80 Shandi80

Thank goodness he got arrested again. Hopefully she never sees this disgusting human being again. I feel for her and her daughter and hope they receive the treatment they need ASAP.

jalaz77 jalaz77

There was a child involved. She could of grabbed the child and ran...maybe?! I don't know. That poor kid.

amazz... amazzonia

i saw the pictures, the police came and toke the guy and it finishes that the woman meets with her father... what should have she done more?

lobus lobus

Those pictures were so powerful. I watched my parents get drunk and fight a lot as a child but fortunately they are sober and older and happier now. I think it must be especially hard when its not your dad but some stranger dude in your moms life. Im looking forward to the pictures of her with her husband in Anchorage. We were also stationed there. I hope she is happy there with her husband. But I knew a lot of very young mothers like her and living the army life in Alaska is not easy I have a feeling her problems dont end there.

sofia... sofia0587

I think she did the right thing he could have either gone after her too or went even more crazy and hurt all 3 of them, and I hope that asshole looks at those pictures over and over and sees the look on his child's face when she realized what a monster he truly is!

nonmember avatar me

While I do understand peoples opinions about her stepping in, as a photographer I think these photos are so powerful and I truely hope they make a difference. They needed to be taken.

kitty... kittykal47

It wouldn't have helped for her to try to stop him. I got in the middle of a fight between my friend and her ex where he was shoving her in a parking lot. He threatened me with one of those club style flashlights and I pulled her in the car and drove off with him hanging from my car, still trying to pull her out. After the police were finished talking to us, she went back to him. Of course. Getting involved, I see now, just made it more dangerous for everyone.

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