#ZIE in Utrecht

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This heart-breaking photo exhibition can now be seen at the Mariaplaats.

If, in the coming days, if you are near the Mariaplaats in Utrecht, take a moment to view the photo exhibition on the square. The people in the photographs are all victims or perpetrators of domestic violence.

The photographers, Judith Keessen, has also had to deal with domestic violence.

In the Netherlands there is an estimated 200,000 people per year who are victims of serious domestic violence. If you add other forms of domestic violence to that, estimates rise to almost one million.

Child abuse also comes under domestic violence. In the Netherlands, 119,000 children are abused each year.

In order to draw attention to this major social problem, you can visit the photo exhibition #ZIE. The photos will be displayed on the Mariaplaats in Utrecht till Monday and coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women that I have already mentioned on this site.

At various times there will be experienced experts and staff at Veilig Thuis Utrecht who will be able to talk and give advice to passers-by.

“I am not asking you to look, I ask you to look, and see;

these women with bruises and calluses on their souls.

Proud of themselves, who they are.

And then I hope you see,

what others do not want to see.”

Judith tells us on her website that all the participants in her photographic exhibition are survivors of domestic violence. They can tell everyone what has been done to them, how they have been subjected to violence, abuse,  grief and pain. They are no longer victims, but experiential experts of domestic violence. They are continually asked questions ‘Why didn’t you leave sooner?’ and ‘Why did you hit yourself?’ They are told ‘It would not happen to me!’ And; ‘It will be easy to leave.’ Then more cruelly, ‘You are exaggerating, you are attention-seeking’ .

These are all comments that Judith has had to deal with, alongside all those other victims. When she was finally free of domestic violence, she had another fight on her hands and this was with public opinion. The opinion that says that victims themselves are guilty of what is being done to them and that they themselves could have done something to stop it. There is the awful feeling that public opinion actually says; it is your own fault and this was punishment that this was done to you, because you did nothing to stop it.

It is shameful that 1 in 7 women get breast cancer and a huge amount of research is being done about this, yet there are 1 in 3 women who are victims of domestic violence and there is little or no research being done into preventing this.

Her goal is not to nail someone to the pillory, but to disconnect the social discussion about the deed; the violence and the condemnation of the act at the expense of the victim. She feels that we must all condemn the deed and commit ourselves to prevention and information. There must be a breaking of the taboo which seems to make the act negotiable. We must not judge and condemn but hold up our hand and make it stop as it can happen to anyone.

Domestic violence is often invisible. It is a case of invisible suffering. It is not always a situation with a lot of shouting, or, something that only happens in the world of the lower educated, unemployed or disadvantaged neighbourhoods. In fact, domestic violence is very common among the highly educated, but it can be invisible, inaudible and therefore anonymous.

Victims want to be heard. That is all they ask. They are already condemned, and usually by themselves. So, we must not judge, but must listen.

It is not for us to tell them what we thought they should have done. There is no excuse for violence, so the victim must not feel guilty

After Judith had come into contact with the Domestic Violence Support Centre, she decided to make a photo series of women who, just like her, had experienced Domestic Violence and had come out of it on their own.

The more people who see the exhibition on Mariaplaats, the better.

The more we listen and hear, the sooner help can be requested and be found.

The more we condemn the act, the sooner we will focus on prevention.

The more we see, the more we know and understand and can then intervene

You can read more about the exhibition here. 

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Jon Wilkins

Jon Wilkins

Jon Wilkins is Welsh and lives in England. He is a writer. A Europhile and Remainer, he is a regular visitor to Utrecht and has set his crime novel series in the city.

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