Herself a victim of sexual abuse, Mariella Furrer bears witness to the emotional and physical pain of these young children.
For more than seven years, Ms. Furrer has been involved with a project so draining that she has had to seek medical help. Photographing young victims of sexual abuse in South Africa would be difficult for anyone, but Ms. Furrer, 41, is herself a victim of sexual abuse.
“There’s just no way that you can do a project like this and not be deeply, deeply affected on every level,” she said. “Emotionally, spiritually, physically.”
As part of her project, which will be published as a book this fall, Ms. Furrer has spent much of her time observing interviews conducted by the South African police with children who reported abuse. She often posed a few questions of her own, sitting on the floor so children didn’t feel threatened or obliged to speak. If they cried, she held their hands.Mariella Furrer A young boy cries at his classmate’s memorial service.
An estimated 50 child rapes are reported daily in South Africa, Ms. Furrer said, but children’s rights advocates activists believe the actual rate could be much higher. On an average day, she said, two to eight children visit a local police station to report abuse.
Having finished gathering material for her book, Ms. Furrer is developing a global fundraising campaign and a Web site to raise awareness of child sexual abuse. She also continues to document some of the children she has come across in South Africa.
I began my journalism career as a photographer, and still shoot for work and for pleasure; my partner is a photo editor and photographer and our home is filled with images, his, mine and some iconic ones by his former friends and colleagues, like Bernie Boston’s young man placing a flower into the barrel of a rifle or George Thames’ well-known image of President Kennedy standing in front of the Oval Office windows.
We love and value great visual journalism — as powerful, often much more — as written.