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As women take to the streets, an in-depth look at domestic violence in France

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Kamil Zihnioglu has seen lots of protests while working as a photo stringer for The Associated Press in Paris, but these campaigns were different, focused on a dark, unreconstructed side of an otherwise progressive France.

Every time a woman is killed by her partner, hundreds of domestic violence victims and other activists take to the streets under cover of night to plaster signs decrying the deaths and pleading for government action. More than 130 women have died in this year alone, according to activists who track the deaths.

The overnight scene was stirring but Zihnioglu wanted to tell the story behind the protests. Over weeks, he gained the trust of the activists, who were deeply skeptical of the media. Kamil teamed up with visiting video journalist Mstyslav Chernov to tell the activists’ story, while reporter Claire Parker and the Paris video team of Catherine Gaschka and Oleg Cetinic broadened the reporting to produce a powerful all-format package digging into deadly domestic violence in France.

Parker got to know abuse victims,and she persuaded one to give a rare,on-camera interview, handled carefully by Gaschka and Cetinic to protect the woman’s identity.

AP used their stories to call attention to a problem that President Emmanuel Macron calls “France’s shame” – European Union studies show France has a higher rate of domestic violence than most of its European peers.

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Women activists pose in Paris in October and November. From left: Mathilde, 31, a jewelry student from Marseille, who says she experienced domestic violence when she was 21; Lea, 22, a fashion student from Angouleme who says the movement of pasting slogans in the street is essential to her; Cindy, 36, a head waitress from Paris who witnessed domestic violence among her neighbors as a child; Julie, 30, a PhD in art history from Nantes who was tired of the French government’s perceived inaction and says pasting slogans gives her empowerment; and Sarah, 23, a stylist from Paris. She says the time has come for action rather than words. – AP Photos / Kamil Zihnioglu

Zihnioglu’s searing,intimate photos and Chernov’s video of the nighttime postering missions shed light on the pervasive problem, as Parker delved into the reasons for the violence and the government’s plan to finally take actions as other nations have.

Top customers – including networks in France – featured the story and photos on the day they ran,and the package gained new life on customer platforms and social media shares in the ensuing days as tens of thousands of protesters marched through Paris calling for action,and the French government released a raft of measures to bring domestic violence under control.

For bringing attention to an issue that is often ignored,Kamil Zihnioglu,Claire Parker,Mystslav Chernov, Catherine Gaschka and Oleg Cetinic win AP’s Best of the Week.

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