THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT: Laura Barnett, 46, Canada

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 third Survivor Stories interview is with Laura Barnett from Canada.

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The Survivor Bio:

I am a 46-year-old mom of a teenage son. I was born and raised in Ontario, Canada, and growing up I was the typical girl-next-door. My father worked and my mother stayed home with myself and my brothers. I was a Girl Guide, took piano lessons, spent summers at the cottage and wrote in my diary. I was the neighbourhood babysitter who pursued the teenage dream and worked at the mall.  Currently I am a production assistant for a small graphic design and signage company. I worked for several years in the transportation industry as a safety and compliance and hiring coordinator, and worked in customer service for many years before that. My love for learning has seen me return to college a few times, studying human resources, occupational health and safety and most recently, medical administration. 

Laura Barnett1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I fell in love, finished high school, attended college and got married in my early 20’s. That chapter ended amicably a few years later and life continued on. I eventually met another man and within two months, I was expecting our only child together. And during what was supposed to be one of the happiest times in my life, it so quickly became the opposite. I lived with domestic violence for 12 years. During that time I experienced verbal and psychological abuse, as well as marital rape. I was never physically assaulted. The destruction of my personal property (family heirlooms, photographs, life’s little mementos) added to the mental abuse as I quite literally watched ‘life before him’ be erased. I was completely isolated from all of my friends and most of my family. I blamed all of it on myself because I simply could not wrap my head around the fact that someone who claimed to love me would treat me this way. Clearly, I was imagining everything. The shame and embarrassment that I was feeling kept me silent.

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

It took years and multiple times of leaving and returning before I finally left for good. I had planned my departure for months, ensuring that my son and I had a safe place to live that kept us in his school district and close to his friends. I contacted my local women’s shelter for counselling support and informed my new landlord and neighbour of the situation I was leaving. Finally the day came and I faced my fear, swallowed the lump in my throat and tore off the bandage. That was 5 years ago. I never looked back. Not even for a glimpse.

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

I came out of my closet. I hid this from so many people for so many years until I finally realised that the very thing that was keeping me in that closet was the same thing that was going to let me out of it. So I started talking about it and continue to do so. This is the second project I have participated in with The Pixel Project, the first being sending a statement picture to be included in one of their music video PSAs for the “30 Artistes, 30 Songs, 30 Days” campaign. That was a pivotal moment in my healing….extremely empowering and liberating!  I got in touch with old friends and embraced the love of my family, a support system that I had been separated from for far too long. But most of all, I forgave myself and in doing so, got over the pain and moved on.

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

Silence hides violence. Talk to someone. Sometimes we are able to put things in perspective and start to move forward simply by saying things out loud. This doesn’t necessarily have to be someone close to you, just someone who you feel safe and comfortable with and who will respect your privacy and honour confidentiality (crisis hotline, family physician, clergy member). Don’t play the shame and blame game with yourself, because you didn’t cause this to happen. Accountability lies with the perpetrator.

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

As the mother of a teenage boy, I am so thankful for men’s initiatives in ending VAW. Positive male role models are so important in helping young men ‘define their masculinity’ without abusing or degrading girls and women. The fight to end VAW must include men, because ultimately this is not just a ‘woman’s issue’ it is a human rights issue. Continued education and building awareness are  paramount.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

The Pixel Project understands the power of social media and uses it in such a positive way. They have partnered with so many like-minded individuals who, through their songs, photos and words provide support and encouragement to victims and survivors. In turn, their talents are being seen and enjoyed by people who may never have discovered them otherwise. Proof that everyone wins when we work together!