The coalminer’s daughter. The bartender. The police brutality activist. The grieving mother. Each looked at the man representing her in Congress and said, “I can do better.”
A four-year-old daughter watches helplessly as her mother is beaten. Years later, when the daughter falls into the same vicious vortex, the mother vows not to sit by silently.
“People can make you feel like a slave,” says Maria Perez as she watches rain go down the gutter on Ventura Avenue in Ventura, California. Perez, 42, says she has been a victim of domestic violence for nearly two decades, suffering physical and verbal abuse at the hands of the man she married. The two had a daughter when Perez was twenty years old, and a son four years later. She divorced her husband in 2009 and says she now holds a restraining order against him.
Despite the rising awareness of domestic violence, the city of Los Angeles saw an 18 percent rise in reported cases last year, and the surrounding area saw a nearly four percent rise. (Because of the nature of the crime, many domestic violence cases still go unreported altogether.)
Domestic abuse is often a vicious cycle that consumes entire families, generation after generation. Perez’ daughter, now 21 with two children of her own, also found herself in an abusive relationship. “People alone cannot change, if they don’t get help, they’re going to do the same thing again and again,” says Perez. She has battled with falling into the same cycles over and over again, and now watches the same thing happen to her daughter. This piece explores the question as to why these women go back to their abusers, and why people care about those who continue to harm them. Maria Perez has chosen to let her voice be heard in an effort to prevent innocent women and children from sharing her pain. “When you have hope and when you believe in yourself, life is going to change, and it’s going to be a better future,” Perez says.
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The photo essays featured on Narratively this week were originally developed as part of Family. Life. a collaborative student project initiated by Syracuse University’s Newhouse School. The project explores the feelings, relationships, obstacles, and identities of families through visual stories produced by photography schools around the world.
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We humans are far more complex than the news headlines and clickbait would have you believe. Let the Narratively newsletter be your guide.