Remember this incredibly powerful image of a dad holding his sick son in the shower that went viral – now the mum is facing investigation.

The original post shared in May 2016, Heather Whitten shared this picture of her husband Thomas embracing their little boy Fox in the shower after he had been unwell with vomiting and diarrhoea.

Even though it was removed by Facebook for apparently violating its photograph rules, it’s still been attracted a massive response from parents across the world.

Heather and Thomas live with their children – twins Fox and Persephone, Lillian, and Leena – in Southern Arizona.

Whitten, herself a photographer, recalls on her Facebook page that she took the photograph in November 2014 after little Fox, then aged almost one, had an attack of vomiting and diarrhoea.

She explains that he would later be taken to hospital with salmonella poisoning. But before that, in an effort to soothe him, her husband Thomas took Fox in his arms and let the shower help soothe him.

“Thomas had spent hours in the shower with him, trying to keep his fever down and letting the vomit and diarrhoea rinse off of them both as it came.

“It was a powerful moment for us as parents.

“As I sat in the shower with the two of them I was just overwhelmed with the scene in front of me. This man. This husband and partner and father.
“He was so patient and so loving and so strong with our tiny son in his lap. His whispers of reassurance to Fox, that he would be OK and that Thomas would take care of him were so steady and so honest.”

Heather added: “I was taken aback by how many people missed the story or didn’t even look past the nudity to find the story. They were just hung up on them both being nude and being in the shower. I had crossed a line. It was too intimate. It shouldn’t be shared publicly.
 But, I disagree.

My family may be different than yours. But, that doesn’t make your way right or my way wrong. You may never take images of your family like I do… you may never share images of your family like I do. But, that doesn’t give you the right to silence my voice. To take away my right to share our experiences in an uncensored way.

 There is nothing sexual or exploitative about this image. There aren’t even any “private parts” showing.
 I wish I could express this all in a better way. I wish I were better spoken and not as rambling. But, this is important to me. And, I hope that one day there will be a platform that not only allows this kind of freedom for families and artists like my own… but, welcomes them without fear.”

The response has been overwhelming, with more than 31,000 shares – and more than 133,000 reactions – on Facebook.

UPDATE 17 Jan 2017

We are sorry to hear that the family have since been investigated by Arizona’s Department of Child Safety and the Sahuarita Police Department for a number of claims that one person made in a letter of complaint.

While the police stated they weren’t going to take action and the case would be closed, the investigator from DCS spent the next few months trying to make Whitten seem as “an immodest, neglectful and abusive mother based on the single interview she had with me.”

Whitten wrote about her situation on a GoFundMe page to help raise money towards her civil case.

She writes that the DCS based most of her opinions on Whitten because she breastfed one of her twins throughout the whole interview, without covering herself or her child.

“Of course, she couldn’t take action against us for any of these things as they were either complete reaches or in the case of me breastfeeding, normal and protected by law. DCS closed their case, as well in July.”

But the claim against the Whittens that could be substantiated against Heather alone, and that she “neglected to supervise our children by allowing their images to be online and so put them at an unreasonable risk of harm.”

“This go against Arizona’s very definition of neglect and encroaches on my right as an artist to share my work with the public,” Whitten writes.

It has been confirmed that the department reviewing the case wasn’t even provided with any of the images in question. The claims are moving forward based “solely on one investigator’s skewed opinion of me, without any evidence even being provided.”

An administrative hearing is being held on February 3rd. After all these months, the day to stand up with evidence and information is finally here! I have found an attorney with a wealth of experience in this system. Having her defend me against this claim is my best opportunity to finally be able to put this behind me, writes Heather.

Our best wishes are with Heather. We hope she continues to fight the good fight.

Share your comments below.

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  • I think the Department of Child Safety went a bit too far.


  • Disgusting! The photo is beautiful and makes me cry thinking how upsetting that would be as a parent to see ur child go through that. The fact that DCS even thought they needed to investigate is atrocious.


  • That’s just unbelievable !
    People jump so quickly to conclusions being judgemental ! Where is the respect for other peoples personality, thoughts, opinions and space ?!! It’s rather sickening !
    Bless you Heather in this fight you didn’t choose yourself. Your picture is beautiful and worthy to share. I hope the outcome will be good for you and your family !!


  • What a ridiculous fight she has to have. It is a beautiful photo, and especially when you understand the full circumstances. I’m sick of people only looking at images or reading headlines before arming themselves with the full facts. This happens everyday, everywhere. Ill-informed people going off on something they know not much about. Inform yourself or shut up. This poor family now has to go through a ridiculous and unnecessary expensive court case to fight for her rights. Ridiculous.


  • How ridiculous! What is wrong with people? There is nothing at all sexual about this image. My husband often showers and bathes with our young children and there is nothing wrong with it. He is simply being a good dad. I think it’s disgusting that people can watch movies with vivid sex scenes in them or listen to those horrible ads on the radio about ‘premature ejaculation’ and not even bat an eye, but when someone shares something intimate and not sexual it’s the end of the world!


  • This is the world today, so so sad. Kids used to run naked on the beach, its was ok and acceptable to pull your car over so your toddler could relieve them selfs. Kids running around topless and just in their underwear on a hot day running around while an adult stood their with a water hose. I’ve taken loads of pics of my babys in the bath, gosh am I weird? No I did’nt share them not because I was ashamed they are reasonably good photos. Should I allow my friends or neighbor see them though? Is there something wrong with me taken photos of naked children, OMG maybe I need to see a councilor. I say shame on you people for attacking this beautiful family, you have got sex on the brain go and have a cold shower.


  • Sounds like someone has a personal grudge & looking for a win to make themselves look good in their employment because that photo does not show any nudity & is simply a father trying to comfort a sick child. A sick child will feel even more uncomfortable if they are covered in vomit or diarrhoea & the most effective way to lower a temperature & clean them up immediately is to hop in the shower with them. Both myself & my husband showered with our kids to comfort them at the same time as reducing a temperature, the act of holding them close whilst trying to comfort them is very effective. It is not a sexual act.


  • In the name of Art anything goes! Even in the 21st century, wether you like it or not, wrong is still wrong!
    This woman is not thinking at all about the future ramifications on the child’s syche.
    Some things are just not meant to be put on show for all the world to see!
    I hope she loses this case big time, but wether she wins or loses, something tells me this lady will not learn a thing from it!
    For your moments of ‘fame’, in the long run, will not be worth it!


  • Think the PC police should take a back seat in this instance.


  • I couldn’t see anything sexual in this photo. Dad could have been wearing his underwear for all any of us knew. What a wonderful Father he is to sit in the shower with his ill child trying to comfort him. Would the people who complained have been happier if it was the Mother who was in the shower instead. I hope you win your hearing and put this all behind you.


  • child safety didn’t like her breast feeding during the interview?? Was she supposed to let the child starve and scream? I never carried a cover up while I was breast feeding, this person needs to be retrained or sacked, what an idiot


  • Whoever made the objection should be investigated themselves. There is a saying “as a man thinketh in his heart so is he!” I wonder what they have been up to? I wish you all the best for February.


  • Seems like a bit of a witch hunt and a huge waste of time when there are children out there that are being physically, sexually and mentally abused.
    Personally I dont think there was anything wrong with the photo at all.
    That being said I still think that many people have become over sharers and if you choose to post photos of your life on social media for everyone to see rather then keeping in the family album then you must deal with the fall out because no matter what you do there will be a group of people that will want to bitch about your photos and the way you are bringing your children up.
    People will complain because you are breast feeding and showing a boob. They will say you are not a good parent for bottle feeding when you could have breast fed. You fed your kid McDonalds and thats not healthy. You only let your kid drink water and thats sad…there is nothing wrong with letting them have juice from time to time. Your kid is wandering around home naked…thats wrong. You didnt bathe your kid last night…disgusting. On and on we go….. no matter what you do you will be blasted. it doesnt really matter if how you are raising your child is right or if the photos show love….people will want to slam you and they will. If you wish to post pics publicly then you need to do so with the knowledge that complete strangers will want to drag you down and point out what a bad parent you are. Its not right but its what will happen…sadly.


  • I thought she was infringing her childs’ privacy when she published the photo, but I DON’T think she was neglectful or abusive. This seems an abuse of the system.

    • Then the mothers or fathers or anybody else who happens to be holding a child clothed and/or nude (and without private parts showing) and have a photo taken by someone and then that said someone post that photo on Facebook, should not be allowed. Get real. This is what is wrong with the world today. There was nothing sexual or exploitive about that photo
      That child was sick and for his father to show love for him is great. (Love for some children which is sadly missing today,)
      I admit it perhaps didn’t need to be put on Facebook but that is the mothers choice.
      Perhaps the authorities should be spending more time on cases where there is clear evidenence of violation and leave this mother and father and others like them alone.


  • I am guessing that the person eho brought all this(it is stated that one person wrote a letter with several alligations) is a seriously screwed up person. Maybe they should investigate the one who sent the letter. As for the photo, that is gorgeous. Unrefined beauty.


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