When a photographer shared a photo she took of her husband holding their sick son in the shower, she did not expect the response she got.
Heather Whitten, a professional documentary photographer, was at home with her husband and their son, who was sick at the time. When she saw her husband holding the little boy, she knew she had to capture the special moment.
The photo was posted on Facebook, where it was shared tens of thousands of times.
Whitten wrote about the photo in a later Facebook post:
This was November of 2014, Fox would be hospitalized that night for salmonella poisoning [that we never figured out how he was exposed to].
Thomas had spent hours in the shower with him, trying to keep his fever down and letting the vomit and diarrhea rinse off of them both as it came.
It was a powerful moment for us as parents. Our intuition was starting to fire off that this was much more serious than just a virus but we've had much more experience with over reacting than not so we were trying to hold off.
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.
Fox had always been more "my twin". He clung to me more than Persephone did in that first year and would always choose me over Thomas for comfort. But, in this moment, he needed and wanted Thomas.
After posting the photo, Whitten says she was shocked to receive massive criticism from people who saw the photo as inappropriate. The photo was temporarily removed from Facebook.
"There is nothing sexual or exploitative about this image," Written wrote in a follow-up Facebook post. "I was taken aback by how many people missed the story or didn't even look past the nudity to find the story."
Now, the mother says she and her husband are in trouble with the law. She set up a GoFundMe page to cover her legal fees after a complaint led to an investigation by the Arizona Department of Child Safety and the Sahuarita Police Department.
She explained on the GoFundMe page:
Thomas and I were investigated by Arizona’s Department of Child Safety and the Sahuarita Police Department for a number of claims that the person made in their letter.
The police right away stated that they were not going to take any action against us and that their case would be closed immediately. The investigator from DCS, however spent the next few months generally trying to have me seen as an immodest, neglectful and abusive mother based on the single interview she had with me.
The Department of Child Safety investigator claimed that Whitten "neglected to supervise her children by allowing their images to be online and so put them at an unreasonable risk of harm."
An administrative hearing will take place on Feb. 3. If the claim is justified, Whitten will be placed on Arizona's Central Registry for 25 years, which would prevent her from being able to foster or adopt children and would prevent her from working with children anywhere in the U.S.
Whitten says she is "nothing short of thankful" for those who have supported her through the experience.