Turning The Page.

José Sarmento Matos


Turning the Page is a documentary photo essay developed in Portugal, which focuses on the change in individuals who have been traumatized as a result of violent crimes in the past. These people, whilst fighting their shame, fear and vulnerability, reached out to a Portuguese NGO for help, APAV (Associação Portuguesa de Apoio à Vítima) – with which I worked in collaboration.

The current project is not only about the violence they suffered. It is essentially about how they are doing now and their trauma. The portraits represent their present and the still life photographs are the representation of these people´s nightmares. Between September and November 2014 I photographed and interviewed approximately 20 people who suffered from domestic violence, human trafficking, stalking, street violence and others who were traumatized by the murder of someone close to them.

Telling the story of these people gave me the opportunity to show their strength and braveness to start a new life. Therefore this work is essentially for other victims that are facing similar problems and are finding hard to ask for help to share their intimate sad reality and to change it.

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  • ´In the end, I only have good memories.´
    Miriam (24) was traumatized by the murder of her boyfriend. She was in denial regarding his death for a year. She believed he would come home one day. For her it was only a nightmare. “The reality was worse than my nightmare. To lose this illusion made me feel hopeless.” She started writing a book about him, which helped her recover from the trauma.

  • João was stalked and psychologically abused by his ex-wife. His ex-wife is currently on parole after being convicted, but she keeps stalking him nonetheless. Recently, João´s door was scratched when his ex-wife found that he was not at home, which is where she expected him to be.

    "I just want to live in peace."

  • "There are a lot things that reminds me the past. When I look in the mirror it reminds me about the sadness that used to be when before I look in it. I question why did I let get to that point? Why did not I give this step to change before?"

    After Elisa gave birth to their second children, Teresa´s husband started being very physically and psychological violent to her. He death threat her several times. She moved to a Shelter house 6 months ago, in 2014 and she feels save and she started liking herself again. “My children are in peace here.” The only thing she could bring to house when she moved was a few of the children´s toys.

  • "I am going forward with my life. I just wish I could have my children´s support."
    39 years old, Susana, decided in 2014 to put an end to a violent, 23 year relationship. She used to be physically abused with belts in front of her three children. “I tried to escape several times but my children always made me go back.” Now she is living with her mother and father. Susana´s two oldest sons do not speak with her anymore. Her ex-partner has an electronic tag and she has a device which allows her to monitor his distance from her.

  • "There is a huge difference between now and the past. There is a huge difference between being happy and suffering. Now I am married with someone who loves me"

    Nicole (19) was sexually and physically abused by her ex-boyfriend since she was 11 years old. She became pregnant at the age of 12 and during that year, she was forced to stay with the abuser’s family and to do the domestic work for them. “I couldn’t talk to my family. I couldn’t rest while I was pregnant. They beat me over the head and put cigars out on my arm. I passed out several times. They didn´t like me, they didn´t care about the fact that I was pregnant. I never received any love or affection from them.”

  • "Justice is my only hope."

    António suffered from psychological and physical abuse at the hands of his son. He was robbed by his son several times and had to leave his own home as a consequence of his abuse. Now Antonio cannot go back to retrieve his belongings.

  • ´I always clung to faith. Every day I prayed for Divine protection.´
    Aurora is now living in a shelter house. She was sexually and physically abused for 34 years by her ex-husband. When she was pregnant with their daughter he used to beat her with a whip. Throughout 2013, she was forced to have sex with him under threat of death by gun, should she refuse. She was never allowed to work. She was totally dependent on him.

  • ´We had to get used to a new life but anything would be better than the suffering we were facing.´
    Teresa was physically abused by her ex-husband for two years. She was completely controlled by him. She could not eat, sleep or even take a shower in peace. “If I fell asleep, he would punch me.” One day, Teresa escaped with her children. They stayed in a hotel for a week and then they were taken in by one of APAV’s shelter houses in the North of Portugal.

  • "I started a new life. I am legal now. My children can already go to the doctor. Slowly, my life is changing. I am learning Portuguese and I am looking for a job."

    Hasina, from Senegal, was sold by her parents to be married to a Senegalese citizen living in Portugal. There, she was forced to work as a housekeeper without pay. She also was a victim of physical abuse and was locked in a house for a long time during her pregnancy.

  • "I was so relieved when he was caught by the police. But I am still scared that he will try to kill me after his 25-year sentence in jail is complete. My only hope is that God will remember."

    Angelina was in a very violent relationship for 29 years, during which she endured psychological abuse and was beaten several times. After she divorced, Angelina went to live in a shelter house. However, her husband has continued to harass her for years. Last April, while the family was baking for Easter, her husband shot her in the leg with a shotgun. He also shot and killed both Angelina´s mother and aunt, and attempted to kill their daughter. The murderer eluded police capture for 34 days.