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Different pictures of domestic abuse


© Copyright Laura Dodsworth, Zero Tolerance, Scottish Womens Aid, domestic abuse survivors, stock photos, one thousand words,Images often show the man angry, losing control, but often the abuser is very much in control.

Scottish Women’s Aid and Zero Tolerance, in a collaboration with survivors, have launched a new creative project to show the reality of domestic abuse.

The project -called ‘a thousand words’ – is a collection of 15 powerful photographs – using models – taken by acclaimed photographer and storyteller Laura Dodsworth and is based on the words and experiences of women who have lived through domestic abuse.

The images are available for all publications to use at no cost as stock photography for news, articles, or posts about domestic abuse, coercive control and Scotland’s new Domestic Abuse Bill.

Contrary to most depictions of domestic abuse they do not show bruises, or physical violence.

In releasing these images the survivors, charities and photographer hope that women will recognise their own experiences and seek the support that is available.

The images will be shared online, and there are plans for a future exhibition in Scotland.

The two charities said that this showing of the reality of domestic abuse, which was inspired by Scotland’s new Domestic Abuse Bill, will be a critical step forward in raising public awareness that domestic abuse is far more than physical violence.

The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill criminalises “abusive behaviour towards a partner or ex-partner”, including coercive and controlling behaviour.

This covers subordination, humiliation, isolating a partner from friends, relatives and sources of support, and controlling or monitoring their day-to-day activities.

Speaking about the importance of creating new images of domestic abuse, one survivor said:  “I spent a long time denying to myself I was actually being abused.

“It took me four years to recognise my situation.

“Bruises are the standard thing in photos of domestic abuse,” she continued.

“There’s a theme that it looks like the man is getting angry and losing control, but often the abuser is very much in control.

“Abuse is also emotional, financial, verbal and being isolated.

“If photographs always show hitting or bruises it means that men who don’t hit absolve themselves of the label abuser because they don’t leave bruises.

“Also it makes people think that if a woman doesn’t have bruises she must be OK.”

Brenna Jessie, of Scottish Women’s Aid, said: “So often at Women’s Aid we hear women question whether their experience counts as abuse – they have no black eye, they have no burst lip.

“’one thousand words’ is important, because we desperately want people to know that there is no hierarchy when it comes to abuse; whether it’s controlling behaviour, threats, humiliation, sexual or physical violence – it all ‘counts’ and it is all real abuse.”

And Lydia House, of Zero Tolerance, added: “Domestic abuse affects women of all classes, ages and backgrounds but current stock images don’t reflect this.

“With ‘one thousand words’ publications have a real choice in the images they use to illustrate stories about domestic abuse; we hope to see a real step forward in the depth and diversity of women’s stories represented by the media.”

If you feel scared or worried in your relationship call Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline, which is open 24/7 on 0800 027 1234 or visit

If you feel threatened, or in an emergency, call the police on 999.

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