I’m extremely honored that Shondaland (??!!) has published my essay on how domestic violence survivors can turn photographs into power. The stories of the women who our police reports call “Victim 1”, are more than headlines. Their stories of triumph and insight, courage and survival, deserve to be heard. And believed. Trigger Warning: Discussion of domestic violence, police accountability, criminal justice concerns, and assault.
“Please take your pants down,” he says to her, his camera protruding from his gloved hand — an unwelcome guest at a party neither of us intended to go to. She sits gingerly on the bench beside me, and asks me the same question that each domestic violence victim always does. But this time, it is with her eyes: Do I really have to? After everything that has happened, do I have to do this?
I want to wrap my arms around her hunched shoulders, smooth the hair back that covers her forehead. I want to hold her so that she knows she is not alone, that we have both been here before. But I do not reach for her hand. I do not put my palm on her thigh to soothe her.
I see her hands, clasped tightly over her stomach. I know that she will flinch if I reach for them, so I meet her eyes and exhale for her instead. I smile, and nod in the direction of the evidence technician who is now fidgeting impatiently with his camera: It will help the police officers to have evidence of what your boyfriend did to hurt you. I know you’re embarrassed, and I’m sorry that we have to be here. It’s your choice what happens next, but if you choose to document how you’ve been injured, we can use it to show the judge why you need a restraining order.
She reaches down and unbuttons her pants.