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.