After I confirmed one of the housemates had called the police, I then continued to document the abuse — my instincts as a photojournalist began kicking in. If Maggie couldn’t leave, neither could I.
Eventually, the police arrived. I was fortunate that the responding officers were well educated on First Amendment laws and did not try to stop me from taking pictures. At first, Maggie did not want to cooperate with the officers who led Shane away in handcuffs, but soon after, she changed her mind and gave a statement about the incident. Shane pled guilty to a domestic violence felony and is currently in prison in Ohio.
The incident raised a number of ethical questions. I’ve been castigated by a number of anonymous internet commenters who have said that I should have somehow physically intervened between the two. Their criticism counters what actual law enforcement officers have told me — that physically intervening would have likely only made the situation worse, endangering me, and further endangering Maggie.
Well, I am not okay with it. I think a lot of people are not okay with it. But there frequently isn't much you can do when, say, the woman is all, "But I luuuuuuuuuuv him," and she keeps going back. (*cough*RHIANNA*cough*)
In one caption, Sara writes that Shane tried to coax Maggie into the basement by offering Maggie two options: keep getting beaten in the kitchen, or they go “talk privately” in the basement. But there’s a clause that’s not in the caption: “What he said was — he pointed at me at one point and said, ‘Because it’s none of her fucking business.’”
In case it isn’t clear, it is reasonable to think that Shane thought he was holding back for the camera. It seems reasonable to think that Shane thought what he was doing was harmless enough that even people whose fucking business it wasn’t could watch. It seems reasonable to think Maggie believed the photographer-witness to be her best bet for safety. It would, therefore, it seems to me, be reasonable to think that the act of documentation was not merely passive; it was also protective.
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