Advocate Spotlight: Photojournalist Donna Ferrato Shines a Light on Domestic Violence

Donna Ferrato

BACK IN THE EARLY 80s, when Sanctuary for Families’ five founding members were struggling to shelter just 35 women and children each night, photojournalist and activist Donna Ferrato was there, on the front-line, capturing the varied faces of domestic violence with her camera.

Over the course of the next decade, Donna went to demonstrations, attended conferences, hung around courtrooms and hospital emergency rooms, rode with police, sat in on batterers’ therapy groups and women’s self-defense classes, and lived in women’s shelters, women’s prisons, and the violent homes in which domestic violence occurred. At a time when marital rape was still legal in many states, Donna’s photographs shined a light on an issue that few women spoke of, but an estimated 66% of women had or would experience during their marriages.

Drawing on these experiences and the photographs she took along the way, Donna published her seminal book, Living With the Enemy. Her advocacy did not stop there. In 2011, Donna launched “I am Unbeatable” through Domestic Abuse Awareness Inc., a non-profit organization she founded in 1991.

“I am Unbeatable”

“I AM UNBEATABLE” aims to raise awareness, educate and prevent domestic violence against women and children by sharing the archive of stories, photographs, and video narratives Donna developed over the course of nearly four decades of work in the field. Currently, the project is raising money to support the Quincy Area Network Against Domestic Abuse (Quanada), a service provider in Quincy, Illinois.

Quanada serves five counties in southern Illinois, but due to the state’s budget crisis,  critical funds have been put on indefinite hold. With the next closest shelter over an hour away, shelter employees have worked without a salary for months in order to keep the shelter doors open. Like Sanctuary, Quanada provides emergency shelter and advocacy services to survivors of domestic and sexual violence. These services are critical to the safety and well-being of many families in the area. Quanada needs to raise 40,000 to make up for their funding gap. You can support Quanada but donating to their IndieGoGO campaign here.

Hear their stories

LEARN MORE about the survivors featured in “I am Unbeatable.”


“Bengt was a very successful engineer and designer: a self-made man. Elisabeth, his stunning wife, mother of five, was the envy of everyone who knew them… When I first saw Bengt hit Elisabeth, I couldn’t believe my eyes.”


screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-12-04-43-am“It is the same old story about love and power and fear and pain, and it began the way it usually does: He wanted her. She was young, 13, and he, 18, was attracted to her vulnerability… He wove a fairytale for her, that she was The One, and together they could create a happily-ever-after.”


screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-12-13-07-am“Sitting with her and her mom and her older brother on the steps of a shelter in 1983, I saw evidence of terrible things. Vikki’s mother’s face was a road map of abuse.  I took their picture. As time passed, Vikki grew up in a haze of alcohol. She married an abuser just like her mom.”


screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-12-15-55-am“When Hedda met Joel Steinberg she had no doubt he was that man. A successful attorney, he charmed her and appeared to have endless love for her. This is the story: Hedda lost everything and her journey back to the land of the living made her an Unbeatable woman.”

To hear more survivor stories click here.

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