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Hedda Nussbaum

Date ca. 1988
Dimensions Image: 12 15/16 x 19 3/16 in. (32.9 x 48.7 cm)
Paper: 16 x 20 in. (40.6 x 50.8 cm)
Mount (with mat): 24 x 30 in. (61 x 76.2 cm)
Print medium Photo-Gelatin silver

In 1987, a six-year-old girl named Lisa was found unconscious in a Greenwich Village apartment. The parents were arrested and charged. Her adoptive mother, Hedda Nussbaum, a book editor, and the father, Joel Steinberg, a criminal attorney, were charged with Lisa's murder. Eventually, evidence pointed to Steinberg as the abuser of both mother and daughter. After intensive therapy Hedda was able to testify against Steinberg. He was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to eight to twenty-five years.
Over time Hedda healed but her scarred face became a haunting warning and a badge of courage. She still attends battered women support groups. Recently, Hedda accomplished something which promises to benefit every battered woman. In a March 7, 1997 New York State Supreme Court decision, Hedda Nussbaum was granted the right to maintain her civil damage action against Joel Steinberg for the physical and psychological injuries he inflicted upon her from 1978 to 1987. In a unique ruling, the Court suspended the one-year statute of limitations for civil assault claims because Hedda, as a result of Steinberg's treatment, was rendered "unable to function overall in society." The Court held that "the destructive impact of violence in [an] intimate relationship may be so complete that the victim is rendered incapable of independent judgment even to save one's own life."
Like the wife-beater Orenthal Simpson, Joel Steinberg denies he was a batterer. He told a reporter, "We didn't have a violent relationship. In fact, there was no violence in our lives at all."

Credit line

Gift of the Gang Family Fund, 2003

Feedback Accession No. 471.2003