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Gender, Violence Against Women
Geographical region for this story (eg. Africa, Middle East, Southeast Asia):
North America
Relevant key words for this story, separated by commas (eg. Africa, Hurricane Katrina, Mother Teresa):
Domestic Violence, US
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"Shane and Maggie" is an intimate look at domestic violence and its effects before, during, and after an attack.
Sara Naomi Lewkowicz

2013 — student winner

Domestic violence is a largely invisible crime. We usually only hear it muffled through walls, and we usually only see it manifested in the faded yellow and purple bruises of a woman who “walked into a wall” or “fell down the stairs.” It is rarely limited to one event, and it rarely stops. My project, “Shane and Maggie,” seeks to portray domestic abuse as a process, as opposed to a single incident, examining how a pattern of abuse develops and eventually crests, as well as its short- and long-term effects on victims, their families, and their abusers.

I had been photographing a couple, Shane and Maggie, since September. I had originally intended the story to focus on the difficulties felons face once being released from incarceration. My intention was to paint a portrait of the catch-22 many individuals find themselves in upon release, the metaphorical prison of stigma they can never seem to escape. The story changed dramatically when one night, Shane and Maggie got into a fight. Shane began to physically abuse Maggie, slamming her up against walls and choking her in front of her two-year-old daughter, Memphis. He had possession of our cellular phones, so I reached into his pocket and stole my phone back when he was distracted. I handed my phone to another adult who was in the house and instructed them to call the police. I then continued to document the abuse.

In that moment, my instincts as a photojournalist kicked in. I knew I had to stay with the story and document it in all of its ugly truth. If Maggie couldn't leave, neither could I. I documented the entire attack and its immediate aftermath. I have continued to follow Maggie since the abuse and am producing a multimedia piece as well as a still series.

While this story is, in part, about domestic violence, it is not a reportage on a domestic dispute—it is not a news event. It seeks to take a deeper, unflinching look into the circumstances that transform a relationship into a crucible and what happens before, during, immediately proceeding, and long after an episode of violence takes place. With this story, it is my goal to examine the effects of this type of violence on the couple, the abused, the abuser, and the children who serve as witnesses to the abuse. We typically only see victims of abuse in the hours or days after having been abused. I have been able to spend time with Maggie and her children before, during, and after the assault. Since the incident, Maggie has moved to Alaska to be with the father of her two children, a soldier in the army who is stationed in Anchorage. I will be spending my spring break in Alaska, documenting Maggie trying to put the pieces of her family and her life back together utilizing both still photographs and multimedia. My goal is to examine the long-term effects of this incident on her current relationship, on her children, and on her own sense of self. I am also in the process of attempting to contact Shane and photograph and interview him in jail to gain his perspective, as well as interviewing Maggie's friends and family, whom Shane isolated her from during their relationship.

The biggest part of this whole upsetting situation that has made the difference has truly been Maggie. Her courage through this whole ordeal, especially considering her age, is extraordinary. She has asked me to move forward with this project and to tell her story, because she feels that the photographs could potentially help someone escape from the same type of situation she was in. "Women need to understand this can happen to them. I never thought it could happen to me, but it could," she told me. "Shane was like a fast car. When you're driving it, you think 'I might get pulled over and get a ticket.' You never think that you're going to crash."

Read more
Maggie and Shane’s courtship has been brief, but intense. They had met through his sister prior to his most recent prison stint and become close friends. Maggie said Shane called her everyday from prison, and upon his release they began to date. Sara Naomi Lewkowicz
Shane has spent more than half of his life incarcerated. His facial tattoos, along with his criminal record, made finding steady work extremely difficult, and work that paid a living wage nearly impossible. Sara Naomi Lewkowicz
Maggie and Shane took a rare night out alone together, singing karaoke at a local bar. Sara Naomi Lewkowicz
After a night out at a local bar in Lancaster, Ohio, Maggie left after becoming jealous of another woman flirting with Shane. Upon arriving home, Shane flew into a rage, angry that Maggie had "abandoned him" at the bar and driven home with his friend, whose house they were staying at for the week. Sara Naomi Lewkowicz
As Shane and Maggie continued to fight, Memphis ran into the room and refused to leave Maggie's side. She witnessed the majority of the assault on her mother. "Please Shane, let me take her out of here," Maggie pleaded. "She shouldn't be seeing this." Sara Naomi Lewkowicz
As Shane and Maggie continued to fight, Memphis ran into the room and refused to leave Maggie's side. She witnessed the majority of the assault on her mother. "Please Shane, let me take her out of here," Maggie pleaded. "She shouldn't be seeing this." Sara Naomi Lewkowicz
Maggie wept on her best friend Amy's sofa after the attack. "I hate him so much," she whispered. "I don't understand why he just wouldn't stop. He didn't even care that Memphis was in the room. What if he had hurt her? I'd never forgive him, or myself." Maggie faces a new set of challenges in the coming months. She's decided to move to Alaska to be closer with her estranged husband Zane, the father of her children. Shane is facing five to 17 years in prison for domestic battery and violating his probation. Sara Naomi Lewkowicz
Shane pled with Maggie not to let the police take him into custody, crying out, "Please, Maggie, I love you, don't let them take me, tell them I didn't do this!" Sara Naomi Lewkowicz
Maggie wept on her best friend Amy's sofa after the attack. "I hate him so much," she whispered. "I don't understand why he just wouldn't stop. He didn't even care that Memphis was in the room. What if he had hurt her? I'd never forgive him, or myself." Maggie faces a new set of challenges in the coming months. She's decided to move to Alaska to be closer with her estranged husband Zane, the father of her children. Shane is facing five to 17 years in prison for domestic battery and violating his probation. Sara Naomi Lewkowicz
Maggie sat in front of her best friend Amy's house and smoked the morning after the assault, while Kayden and Amy's daughter Olivia, three, play in the window. Maggie now faces a new set of challenges in the coming months. With Shane facing five to 17 years in prison for domestic battery and violating his probation, Maggie must pick up the pieces and decide what's best for her and her children. She's decided to move to Alaska to be closer with her estranged husband Zane, the father of her children. She insists that they are not getting back together right away, that he just wants to take care of her and her children for a while. Sara Naomi Lewkowicz