Domestic Abuse Awareness Photo Project

Trigger warning: this post is a story about domestic abuse.

Candace and I met a few years ago as fellow homeschool moms. She reached out on facebook last month and explained to me that October is Domestic Abuse Awareness month. She told me a heartbreaking story of her past associated with domestic abuse and asked if I’d be interested in doing a photo project with her. She had repressed her emotions for a long time and became preoccupied with motherhood, then like undealt with trauma usually does, it resurfaced recently and hit her pretty hard. Candace wanted to honor the memory of her mother and brother and tell her story through photos as a way of self-healing, with the hope that sharing her story could help other survivors in their own journey. It was my absolute honor to be a part of Candace’s healing process and help her tell her story.

This is Candace’s story in her own words.

domestic abuse awareness photo project oklahoma photography paige rains
domestic abuse awareness photo project oklahoma photography paige rains

“My parents divorced and when I was 12. I moved in with my mom and step-father.  My step-father was a kind man when he wasn’t drinking.  A raging mad-man when he was.   

 I spent three years of my life witnessing the violence, anticipating what would happen after they came home after a night out drinking.  Hoping the sound of the doorknob turning would be followed by laughs instead of anger.  On the bad nights, I would hear the horrific thuds of his hands and feet hitting her body.  Her screaming my name for help.  Me being frozen in fear.  He never hit me and I don’t know why…there is some weird guilt attached to that.

I was 15 when he almost killed her the first time.  He beat her so bad that she could barely walk and I managed to convince her to leave.  We moved several states to live with my grandparents and I thought it was over... but it wasn’t over.  He followed us.  I soon realized my mom would not leave him and I packed a bag and left, without telling her where I was going. 

 That would be the last time I saw her alive.

My parents divorced and when I was 12 I moved in with my mom and step-father.  My step-father was a kind man when he wasn’t drinking.  A raging mad-man when he was.        I spent three years of my life witnessing the violence, anticipating what would happen after they came home after a night out drinking.  Hoping the sound of the doorknob turning would be followed by laughs instead of anger.  On the bad nights, I would hear the horrific thuds of his hands and feet hitting her body.  Her screaming my name for help.  Me being frozen in fear.  He never hit me and I don’t know why…there is some weird guilt attached to that.

On October 4, 2006 my step-father killed my mom and my 10 year brother. He strangled them with a tan pillowcase for drug money. My brother had a piggy bank that needed his fingerprint to open it. Two days after he killed them - he called 911, confessed, and then committed suicide. I was 30 years old.

domestic abuse awareness photo project oklahoma photography paige rains
domestic abuse awareness photo project oklahoma photography paige rains
domestic abuse awareness photo project oklahoma photography paige rains
domestic abuse awareness photo project oklahoma photography paige rains
domestic abuse awareness photo project oklahoma photography paige rains
domestic abuse awareness photo project oklahoma photography paige rains
domestic abuse awareness photo project oklahoma photography paige rains
domestic abuse awareness photo project oklahoma photography paige rains

 I coped with the violence when I was younger by hiding it, by ignoring it, by seeking refuge with people who were kind enough to take me in.  I coped with their deaths with gut-wrenching grief at first.  I had to drive to Florida to make arrangements for their burials and my family was hounded by phone calls from reporters.  We had to hear his 911 call on TV and the publicity was overwhelming.  In order to collect their belongings, we had to be in the same room where they died.  I eventually became catatonic about it all - it was my emotional safety net.  Afterwards, there were times I became self-destructive in order to deal with my emotions.

domestic abuse awareness photo project oklahoma photography paige rains
domestic abuse awareness photo project oklahoma photography paige rains
domestic abuse awareness photo project oklahoma photography paige rains

I always believed I was strong.  However it's a peculiar thing when you have kids...your past slowly leaks out in ways that you don't want it to and once I recognized that, it completely broke me.  Luckily I have a wonderful partner who is unbelievably supportive and has such surprising kindness that it stuns me.  

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and I want to do something in my mom and brother's memory,  I want to continue to find a way to heal not just for me, but for my kids.

domestic abuse awareness photo project oklahoma photography paige rains
domestic abuse awareness photo project oklahoma photography paige rains

I chose Paige to help me because I feel like she has a tenderness in her photography and an audience that I hope can benefit from it.”

domestic abuse awareness photo project oklahoma photography paige rains

If you or anyone you know needs help, please check out this site YWCA USA, and this one if you are local in Oklahoma Women's Resource Center. These are resources for women but I want to be very clear that domestic abuse can happen to ANYONE and is not limited to physical abuse. It can involve mental control and manipulation as well. Click HERE to read about the signs of domestic abuse and please reach out for help if you or someone you know is being abused in any way. There is a way out and no one deserves to be abused.