FARMINGTON — Shiprock-based Navajo artist Keno Zahney is using his art to touch lives.

Working in collaboration with the Navajo artists' collective Art of the People, Inc., Zahney is helping to raise awareness of a brutal rape and beating.

The victim: his niece, Charlotte Hansen, 21.

"I don't really expect anything in return," he said. "It's just my way of helping."

Zahney's painting will be auctioned to raise funds for a documentary about Hansen's ordeal and road to recovery called "Innocence Lost: The Charlotte Hansen Story."

"As far as the painting, I designed it," Zahney said. "I started it and asked Art of the People for help. We've been getting requests for prints and posters."

In August 2002, Hansen was kidnapped from her home in Midvale, Utah by a family friend, said documentary's director, Jared Richardson.

Richardson was also one of the officers involved in Hansen's case.

"She was dragged out to the backyard and raped," he said. "He took a sledgehammer and broke every bone in her face. It was my police dog that apprehended the suspect."

Hansen survived, but the recovery process was particularly trying.

Although she received support from her mother and aunts, her biological father betrayed her after the attack, Richardson said.

"In a way, he takes advantage of his own daughter," he said.

Richardson decided to produce the documentary to raise awareness of her story and to help raise money for her care.


"She's been through a lot of painful surgeries," he said. "Ten years later, she still needs money for (procedures)."

About 40 to 45 percent of the documentary's proceeds will go directly to Hansen, Richardson said. The rest will go toward paying the actors involved and other production costs.

Richardson says making the film has been a roller coaster of emotions.

"It's been very challenging," he said. "We found out things that we didn't realize during the investigation. We thought he used a smaller hammer. He used a two handed sledgehammer ... It's been a way for all of us involved in her case to help her out a little more."

Richardson expects to complete the documentary by December and plans to submit it to film festivals around the country. The documentary will released in early 2013.

However, submitting the documentary to festivals is a laborious and expensive process, Richardson said.

The film must be converted from digital to analog formats for submission.

That process costs about $25,000, he said.

Proceeds from the auction of Zahney's painting will go toward this and other post production costs.

The painting will be up for auction online at within the next five days, Richardson said.

In the meantime, Hansen has found a new source of inspiration in spite of her long road to recovery, said Sherry Zahne, Hansen's aunt.

While Zahney was completing the painting with Art of the People at the Western Navajo Nation Fair in Tuba City, girls would come to Hansen and share their stories of abuse.

Hansen comforted them and told them it was going to be all, Zahne said.

"We had to see her go through all the pain," she said. "Just looking at the painting brings it all back. I just get goosebumps. It's a good thing my cousin did for Charlotte. We have to stick together through everything."