Ponnada: Fictional characters make abuse seem real

BY SRI PONNADA | JULY 15, 2014 5:00 AM

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I recently stumbled upon an article about an artist who uses Disney Princesses to battle violence against women. The artist, Saint Hoax, previously made a controversial series of posters in which Jasmine, Aurora, and the lot were victims of rape and incest in order to raise awareness about those issues. Now, Saint Hoax has called upon the princesses once more to tackle the issue of domestic violence.

In this new project titled “Happily Never After,” we see some of our favorite Disney girls such as Ariel and Cinderella as victims of domestic violence. The princesses appear to have been beaten to a pulp, with blood covering their faces and their eyes black and swollen. At the bottom of each picture, the caption reads, “When did he stop treating you like a princess? It’s never too late to put an end to it.” According to the artist, the series is “an awareness campaign targeting any girl/woman who has been subject to domestic violence. The aim of the poster series is to encourage victims to report their cases in order for the authorities to prevent it from happening again.”

That’s certainly a big goal for these pictures of princesses since, in the minute it took me to look at the photo series, 24 people in America were raped, physically attacked, or stalked by an intimate partner. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women. One in five women who ever experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking first experienced some sort of domestic violence between the ages of 11 and 17. And the violence doesn’t end with rape, battery, or stalking, either.

Between 1995 and February 2010, 205 people were killed in domestic-abuse-related homicides — in the state of Iowa alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that domestic violence resulted in 2,340 deaths (nationally) in 2007 — which accounted for 14 percent of all homicides. Seventy percent of those people who were killed were women. This probably hasn’t magically disappeared since the last reported numbers. Yet, most of these cases are never reported to the police.

I’m definitely not trying to bash the artist’s work. To be honest, when I first saw the photos, I was very unsettled. The transformed images of the princesses whom I once adored (and still secretly do) are undoubtedly gruesome, as the artists intended for them to be. It would be great if more and more women — especially young women and girls — came across these photos because they make you think about an issue that is often seen as taboo to talk about. And hopefully, the photos do encourage victims to not stay silent about their abuse.

However, what does it mean for us to be in a society in which we are now depending on “gruesome” images of children’s cartoon characters to raise awareness about and ultimately fix serious issues that have been plaguing the world for years on end — such as domestic violence?

Are we trying to escape the images of our moms, our sisters, our friends, and even of ourselves by transposing the violence we experience to fictional beings? Or have we just become so accustomed to the experience, the real-world reports on the news, that we no longer hope or care enough to fight against it without having our childhood memories jostled in the process?

Either way, it seems that our society has become immune to the images and stories of all the real women who are victims of domestic violence — which is very unfortunate and a lot more frightening, because this is not an issue that will just disappear in a few years.

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