Add this Page to Facebook!   Submit to Twitter   Submit to Reddit   Submit to Stumble Upon   Pin It!   Fark It!   Tell A Friend  
Printer Friendly Page Save As Favorite Save As Favorite View Article Stats
2 comments

Sci Tech

Framing Innocence: A Mother's Photographs, A Prosecutor's Zeal, and a Small Town Response

By (about the author)     Permalink       (Page 1 of 1 pages)
Related Topic(s): ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; (more...) ; ; ; ; ; , Add Tags  (less...) Add to My Group(s)

Must Read 2   Well Said 2   News 1  
View Ratings | Rate It

Headlined to H3 2/10/11
Become a Fan
  (12 fans)

opednews.com

Lynn Powell, a poet in Oberlin, Ohio, has written a powerful and disturbing book.   Like the gripping true story Zeitoun by Dave Eggers, and the film Rendition, it is a chilling account of what can go wrong in the lives of ordinary, good people who feel safe in the privacy of their homes and who trust in the protections afforded them by living in a country where jurisprudence is believed to prevail.

            In 1999, Cynthia Stewart was a school bus driver, a devoted mother, and an amateur photographer when she dropped off several rolls of film to be developed at a local drugstore in her hometown of Oberlin.   She had been documenting her daughter Nora's life ever since she'd been born eight years earlier.   Of the thousands of pictures she had of a happy, confident little girl, a few were of Nora unclothed.   Two of the pictures in the lot she took for developing that fateful July day were of Nora in the bathtub.   In one, she was rinsing herself with a shower head and in the other, she was imitating a pose she'd seen at a photography exhibit she'd visited with her mother.   The developer in the drugstore deemed the photos to be pornographic and notified authorities.   And thus began a year of hell for Cynthia, her partner David (Nora's father), and Nora.

            If this all sounds familiar, it may be because the case drew national attention and numerous supporters from various quarters.   Because of that, readers may already know that ultimately Stewart was not separated from her child nor did she go to prison -- largely because of the overwhelming support and media hoopla her case garnered -- but the book is a nail-biter from start to finish, thanks to Powell's skillful account of events.  

Powell paints vivid pictures of a determined prosecutor (and his obsessed associate), an equally determined young lawyer, a feisty guardian ad litem, a less than adequate child welfare system, a community of supporters and more.   She also gives us a birds-eye view into events and a blow-by-blow account of what transpired during a tense and frightening year in the lives of a loving family.   It is to Powell's credit that although she is a friend of Stewart's and actively advocated on her behalf, she tells the story fairly and dispassionately, without diminishing its drama.  

What happened to Cynthia Stewart raises more than alarm bells although it is a cautionary tale.   It forces us to ask important questions about our legal system and our civil rights, to contemplate what constitutes art; to think about who decides what is pornographic; to wonder what rights the state should have and to ask when parental rights are being violated. It also causes us to look at what constitutes "community" and how people deal with each other when their values are in conflict.  

Further, it makes us realize how often false accusations of this nature occur and how terrible the consequences of those accusations can be.   In the course of the year it took to resolve Stewart's case, she received numerous calls and emails from other women who like herself, had been charged -- but falsely convicted -- of child abuse.   One was a grandmother who had photographed her three-year-old granddaughter goofing around with her; another was a woman, wrongly accused, who'd spent nearly fifteen years in jail.

            Their stories reminded me of something that could have landed me in similar trouble.   In 1981, when my son was a pre-schooler, I received a call from his teacher.   She was concerned about something he'd said when asked to name his favorite thing.   "When my mommy colors me after my bath," she'd heard.   What he'd really told her was, "When my mommy cuddles me after my bath."   I shudder to think now what could have happened had that teacher not believed my explanation that our kids used a lot of English words, their dad being British.   I realize how close I might have come to charges similar to those Cynthia Stewart, and so many other innocent women, have faced.

The very thought is enough to send shivers down anyone's spine.    Reading Lynn Powell's compelling book about Stewart's deeply troubling experience is guaranteed to send them down yours.

 

www.elayneclift.com

Elayne Clift is a writer,lecturer, workshop leader and activist. She is senior correspondent for Women's Feature Service, columnist for the Keene (NH) Sentinel and Brattleboro (VT) Commons and a contributor to various publications internationally. (more...)
 
Add this Page to Facebook!   Submit to Twitter   Submit to Reddit   Submit to Stumble Upon   Pin It!   Fark It!   Tell A Friend
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Writers Guidelines

Contact Author Contact Editor View Authors' Articles

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

What Happens When "Jane" Comes Marching Home Again?

Orifice Politics; What the War on Women is Really About

Why Are We Sexualizing Young Girls?

Beauty and the Beast: The Ugly Attacks on Activist Women

DSM-5 Could Be Hazardous to Your Mental Health

What Ever Happened to Gun Control?

Comments

The time limit for entering new comments on this article has expired.

This limit can be removed. Our paid membership program is designed to give you many benefits, such as removing this time limit. To learn more, please click here.

Comments: Expand   Shrink   Hide  
2 people are discussing this page, with 2 comments
To view all comments:
Expand Comments
(Or you can set your preferences to show all comments, always)

because our rights to secure justice have been sto... by Mark Adams JD/MBA on Friday, Feb 11, 2011 at 11:16:01 AM
....Meet the stupids.A government of the stupid, f... by Ned Lud on Sunday, Feb 13, 2011 at 7:23:49 AM