Domestic violence on display, Wichita photographer empowers victims

Local

A Wichita photographer is proving a set of pictures is powerful enough to create a movement to stop domestic violence.

“I just think in the Wichita community it’s not talked about enough and I have a client of mine who came up with the idea, so we just kind of ran with it,” said Avid Artistry owner and photographer Amanda Smith.

The idea consisted of taking a few photos showcasing the wide-spread affects of domestic violence.

“I just want to bring awareness. I want the community of Wichita to come together. I want the community of Wichita to realize it’s happening to more than they think,” Smith said.

Smith is a domestic violence survivor.

“My stepdad was abusive. My mom didn’t reach out. She didn’t ask for help. She kind of did the struggle on her own. Then, my first real relationship after turning 18 was also physically abusive,” she said.

Smith was able to escape her abuser. She’s now happily married with children.

Then, in early October she lost her friend, Kristin Florio-Gile, to domestic violence.

Florio-Gile’s husband shot and killed the mother of six before taking his own life, according to the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office.

It was after Florio-Gile’s death, Smith decided to take her photography to a new level, showcasing victims and survivors of domestic violence.

She wrote a Facebook message asking for models who wanted to be involved. She never expected the wide-spread response.

“Well, to be honest, I can’t not look at my phone for five minutes because there’s constantly girls reaching out to me,” Smith said. “I’ve had people in Virginia message me saying how they want to do this shoot.”

Smith said nearly 40 domestic violence victims have come forward willing to take part in the shoot and share their stories of survival.

“When they come in, I just sit down with them like we are now and talk to them about, you know, kind of get them to open up just a little bit about what happened to them,” Smith explained.

Kristen Alexander, 32, is one of the women who took part in the photo shoot. She left her abuser about a decade ago.

“My daughter is what saved me. I left for her and I spent two months in a shelter just to make sure we made it out safe. I don’t want her to grow up thinking that the way things were going is the way that it should be,” Alexander said.

Alexander said she hopes other victims will see the photos and feel a sense of relief.

“I think having someone share their story is helpful. I didn’t have that when I was going through it and I feel like if I had, it would have been easier than what it was.” Alexander said. “Women need to know it’s possible to get out of those situations and that there is change, that there is help out there to make it through.”

Each of the photos has #KristinsLaw on them in honor of Florio-Gile.

Smith is working with state legislators to pass a law for harsher penalties for those accused of domestic violence. She said she hopes the photos will help prove her point while helping other victims.

“If I can change how you feel by you being confident and you feeling strong, then the little ones looking up to you when they grow up they are going to be the same way, so it breaks the cycle,” Smith said.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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