THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT: Denise Escher, 42, 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-sixth Survivor Stories interview is with Denise Escher from the U.S.A.

TRIGGER WARNING: The description in the first two segments of this interview may be triggering for some survivors of domestic violence.

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The Survivor Bio:

Denise Escher is a 42-year-old female domestic violence survivor, mother to two sons and three fur baby kitties, wife, paralegal, runner, and local domestic abuse project volunteer. She loves music, Facebook, working hard, running, shopping, hanging with her family, and spending time with her friends.

Denise Escher 11. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

On 14 February 2009, I was brutally attacked by my then-husband. He stabbed me a total of eleven times with five different butcher and steak knives. This was done in my mother’s home, where we were temporarily living. After repeated stabs, the knife broke and he dragged me across the kitchen floor to grab another weapon. He attempted to stab my face and neck, but due to my frantic defence with my arms, was only successful in stabbing my back and chest. Our sons, then ages six and three, watched in horror. I called for my six-year-old son to call 911 but he began to cry and scream uncontrollably when he saw his father stabbing me.

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

When my husband let go of me to comfort our son, I dashed for the door and ran barefoot into the street. I headed to house of an elderly lady that my mother provided for as a weekend job, but ended up at their neighbour’s house instead. The neighbour recognised me, called 911, and went next door to get my mother. By the time my mother came outside, the police were there. I have been free from abuse since that day.

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

I started rebuilding my life by finishing what I had started before the attack – getting my Master’s in Education in Secondary Education. Four weeks after the stabbing, I passed my state Praxis teacher’s exams. I finished student teaching and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. I attended weekly counseling sessions, did a lot of reading, and took up running. In 2013, I completed my first half-marathon. I met the true love of my life and got married in August 2012. We recently purchased our first home together in September. I also became a local advocate as a trained volunteer with my local Domestic Abuse Project. I have a tattoo on my inner left forearm that reads “Survivor” in Chinese, to remind me that I am here, I survived, and that others can, too.

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

I would suggest becoming educated about abuse, learn what it looks like, learn what healthy relationships are supposed to look like, and how to get out safely. Safety Planning is essential to staying safe while escaping an abuser. Also, KNOW YOUR WORTH. Know that any type of abuse or assault is wrong and no matter how you might have allowed someone to treat you yesterday, it doesn’t define you forever, and it doesn’t mean you have to allow them to treat you the same way today. Don’t be afraid to confide in someone about what is happening. Seek help; there are many of us out here that will help you.

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

Violence against women needs to be treated by the courts as a serious matter. Protection From Abuse orders are not enough. Real consequences for abuse are necessary: GPS monitors ensure that the perpetrators stay away from their victims and violations are immediately tracked and put in jail. We need to educate our young people about violence. Often it’s cyclical and runs in families, communities, and cultures. Children grow up to do what they see, so if a child grows up in a home and wider community where violence against women is prevalent, he/she thinks that’s what love “looks like.” We have to educate our youth and our offenders, show them what relationships look like and what they don’t look like.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because it takes a village to raise a child, especially when this child is violence against women. It can’t happen with one person alone. People of all colours, races, genders, creeds, and sexual orientations need to stand together and ensure that violence against women is not be tolerated. This is the mission of The Pixel Project, and it is one of my life’s passions.