This makeup artist’s incredible photo project shows what it’s like to be in an abusive relationship

The topic of domestic abuse is often treated as taboo, but a makeup artist’s photo project depicting the reality of abusive relationships has gone viral, shedding some much-needed light on this incredibly important issue.

One in three women and one in four men have been subjected to physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

In a single year, over 10 million Americans experience domestic abuse — but the issue is often misunderstood and victim-blaming domestic violence survivors is incredibly common.

I’ve heard the phrase, “why don’t people just leave their domestic abusers?” far too often.

Ebony Malika, a 21-year-old makeup artist and domestic violence survivor from New Orleans, has put her talents to amazing use by depicting the brutal reality of being in an abusive relationship.

In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Malika explained that she’d spent two years in an abusive relationship:

“I loved that person very much, honestly more than myself at one point. And that’s exactly where I went wrong.

Malika says that, like so many other survivors, the relationship took a tremendous toll on every aspect of her life — from her education to her relationships with others.

She left the relationship when she came to grips with the fact that she could no longer recognize who she was.

Malika is keenly aware that many other women and men are currently experiencing the suffering that she eventually escaped — and she’s using her platform to be a voice for the victims who haven’t yet found their voices.

The photo project has prompted other survivors to open about their own experiences as they realize they're not alone. Other women began sharing photos of their own scars and bruises and telling their stories.

“Although it saddened me, the responses made me feel good as well. I’m thankful for the people that weren’t afraid to be heard," Malika says.

“Those stories alone showed me that my mission had been accomplished. Domestic violence is a serious issue and no one should feel threatened by a person they love and trust,” she adds.

Domestic abuse victims often hide in silence because they feel alone, frightened, and ashamed — and Malika’s project has empowered women and men to come forward in a manner that could be life-saving.

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