Sydney Uni photo exhibition Silent Tears features disabled women who are victims of violence

Silent tears: Photographers Denise Beckwith and Belinda Mason (front row, left to right) have told the stories of disabled abuse survivors Rochelle Taylor, Jeannine Burt and Amao Leota Lu (back row, left to right). Photo: James Alcock Jeannine Burt, who was abused by a dentist when she was 13, is pictured emerging from a bathful of tears. Photo: Belinda Mason

Carolyn Dewaegeneire, whose genitals were unnecessarily removed by the “Butcher of Bega” Graeme Reeves, remembers lying on the operating bed and being told her clitoris would be taken. Photo: Belinda Mason

“I know I can overcome what life throws at me:” This anonymous indigenous woman was assaulted by her partner, who then killed her eight-year-old son. Photo: Belinda Mason

 Jeannine Burt was abused by a dentist while she was in the dentist chair, on happy gas, at the age of 13.

A vague memory of it followed her through life, consuming her with flashbacks, confusion and a crippling fear that eventually prevented her from taking her daughters to see doctors or dentists.

But that would not be the last of her struggles.

While undergoing psychiatric treatment for a breakdown connected to the abuse, Ms Burt, 47, had a bad reaction to medication and acquired Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a rare condition causing her body to burn from the inside out.

She spent a month in a coma, 90 per cent of her skin peeled off and her eyelids stuck to her eyeballs. The permanent condition means she has her eyelashes removed weekly to stop them growing inwards and regular blood transfusions to allow her eyes to produce moisture and tears.

“I kept saying somehow I have to find a positive way of me expressing this or bringing it into my children’s lives so they have an understanding,” she said.

“You can’t keep living in the past. You have to make the memory become a part of your future and your present.”

Ms Burt’s story is one of dozens portrayed in a photographic exhibition, Silent Tears, that opened at the University of Sydney on Wednesday night.

Ms Burt is pictured emerging defiantly through a bathful of tears by photographer Belinda Mason, a former Moran Prize winner who has used saturated water to depict the haunting stories of women who have been left disabled due to violence or been abused because they have a disability.

It is a hidden but startlingly large problem in Australia.

More than 70 per cent of disabled women have been sexually abused and the figure is closer to 90 per cent for those with an intellectual disability.

Disabled women are 40 per cent more likely to be the victims of domestic violence.

Yet violence “often goes unidentified, unreported, un-investigated, inadequately investigated or results in poor outcomes for the person involved,” the country’s main disability advocacy bodies said in a recent submission the federal government.

Victims are often not believed or not given the chance to tell their story. Ms Mason, who worked with artists Dieter Knierim and Margherita Coppolino and disability consultant-turned-photographer Denise Beckwith, said the exhibition screams: “Don’t forget these are people’s lives”.

“As long as we create an inclusive environment for these conversations there will be better solutions because we are not being desensitised,” she said.

In the exhibition, Carolyn Dewaegeneire, who had her genitals mutilated by the “Butcher of Bega” Graeme Reeves, is pictured terrified before going under the knife.

Rochelle Taylor, a survivor of severe child physical and sexual abuse, is distorted to look like the lost child she once was. Amao Leota Lu, a transgender woman of Samoan heritage, is pictured undergoing dialysis with a huge smile on her face.

After spending years confused about her identity and the abuse she suffered as a child, Ms Leota Lu said she is finally learning to laugh again.

“This exhibition was a healing process for me,” she said. “This is the tip of the iceberg to me feeling free.”

Silent Tears will run in the Herbert Smith Freehills Law Library until April 22.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on 老域名购买.

Comments are closed.