THE SURVIVIOR STORIES: Christina Fernandez, 48, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present the Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2014. The project runs throughout the month of May 2014 and features an interview per day with a survivor of any form of violence against women (VAW) including domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation, forced/child marriage, sex trafficking, breast ironing etc. A total of 31 VAW survivor stories will be featured. This project was created to provide:

  • VAW survivors a platform to share their stories and solutions/ideas on how they rebuilt their lives and healed/are healing.
  • Girls and women currently experiencing or who have survived VAW ideas, hope, and inspiration to escape the violence and know that there is light at the tunnel and there is help out there.

This project is also part of a programme of initiatives held throughout 2014 in support of the Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign that is in benefit of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and The Pixel Project. Donate at just US$1 per pixel to reveal the mystery Celebrity Male Role Models and help raise US$1 million for the cause while raising awareness about the important role men and boys play in ending violence against women in their communities worldwide. Donations begin at just US$10 and you can donate via the Pixel Reveal website here or the Pixel Reveal Razoo donation page here.

Our twenty-second Survivor Stories interview is with Christina Fernandez from the U.S.A.


The Survivor Bio:

Tina Fernandez is a lifelong resident of the Bay Area, currently residing in Fremont, California. She is the mother of two teens and was a stay-at-home mother for 14 years following a brief career as a paralegal. Tina joined SAVE (Safe Alternatives to Violent Environments), a non-profit organisation with over 35 years of expertise supporting victims of intimate partner abuse. Tina was named Assistant Director of Community Development in March 2014, and oversees marketing and communications, event planning and management, supporter and donor relations, fundraising, and general development strategies. In her spare time, Tina enjoys spending time with her family, gardening, and raising chickens.

Christina Fernandez1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I grew up in a family in which there was family violence, including physical child abuse and emotional abuse. I suffered from very poor self-esteem as a child and was painfully shy, which continued into my 30s. As with many childhood survivors, I learned to cope by wanting to be a peacemaker and developing anxiety and depression. My first serious relationship was with a controlling man I met in college and whom I married at age 25. He convinced me that our marriage would be better if we started a family and we soon had two children. When our son was three, he was diagnosed with autism and I became very depressed. Eventually I realised I couldn’t stay in the marriage because I didn’t like the effect the fighting and tension had on our children.

Soon after we divorced, I met a man who promised to take care of me and my children, bought me gifts, and complimented my appearance – things that my ex never did. Within 9 months, he became increasingly hard to please and would tell me that no one else would want me or my kids. I felt as though I was walking on eggshells, always trying to find everything to please him. When I did things he didn’t like, he would “freeze” me out or would tell me I was “too sensitive” when I talked about how I was feeling. I became isolated from friends and family, and it felt impossible to break the break-up-and-make-up cycle. He would show up at my house and apologise and I always felt sorry and took him back.

2. How did you escape the violent situation/relationship/ritual?

By chance, I began volunteering at an organisation that supports victims of domestic violence. Though my husband wasn’t happy about it, I started questioning our relationship dynamic and standing up for myself. Eventually, he rejected me and, after nine years, I was finally free. I was afraid to be alone but realised that I could be happier without him. I moved my things out and never spoke to him again.

3. How did you heal and rebuild your life after the violent situation/relationship/ritual? What actions did you take?

I talked a lot with my mom, who was very supportive, and a counselor. I started realising I could start over and that I deserved a happy life. Today, I could not be more grateful that it’s over. I regret that my kids witnessed my ex-fiancée’s rages and his abuse of us. I know I can’t get the years back I spent with him but now I know that I will never allow myself to be treated that way again. Sometimes I am asked what drew me to this work and I reply honestly because I want them to know that I am the face of domestic violence, a woman who is educated, has a career and family, friends, and many interests. I am confident, happy, professional, vibrant, and free. I want others to know that it is possible to start over and live without violence.

4. What would you suggest to or share with another woman or girl facing the same situation as you did?

I would tell her the same things I tell my children: that no one has the right to abuse you and that we all deserve to be treated with love and respect. Abusers are the ones with the problem, not you. I also tell my kids that it’s important to set boundaries in ALL relationships, including friendships and family.

5. How do you think we can end violence against women?

We can end violence against women by raising awareness and supporting organisations and efforts/campaigns that help prevent violence. Speaking up in safe ways when you suspect or see that someone is being abused is tremendously important. We can’t make a difference if we stay silence.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support the project because I firmly believe that we can all make a difference in ending intimate partner violence and other forms of violence against women. No one should live in fear. Everyone deserves to be safe, loved, and empowered.