THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT: Mary Kay Owney, 46, 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 sixth Survivor Stories interview is with Mary Kay Owney from the U.S.A.

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

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The Survivor Bio:

My name is Mary Kay Owney, I’m 46 with a wonderful 17-year-old old son. Separated from husband (not same one I am writing about) of 14 years in September 2012. Our marriage was very strained and I saw a pattern of verbal and emotional abuse surfacing so I left before it got worse and to keep my son from seeing anymore than he already had. My father has been sober for 25 yrs now. I have a long line of alcohol addiction in my family on my mother and fathers side. Both their fathers were dead by 50 from alcohol related issues. I now have a great relationship with my father as well as my stepfather and 4 of best siblings I could ever ask for, 2 from my mother’s second marriage, 1 from my father’s second marriage. I work in the Healthcare industry and am raising my son who will be graduating next year. 

Mary Kay Owney1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

At the age of 15 I fell madly in love with a guy, moved in with him at 18, and thought I’d live happily ever after. We were very happy for years, but started to fight a lot. It got physical at times but nothing really serious and we ended it after being off-and-on for about 7 years. That was nothing compared to what I experienced when I thought I had met my knight in shining armour at 26. He was 11 years older than me and I had never endured any emotional, mental or physical abuse of this magnitude as I had did with this man. In 5 months, he turned into a sexually and physically abusive Jekyll-and-Hyde sociopath. He controlled every part of my life before I even knew what happened. Anything would and did set him off, from not being home when he called to shopping too long to not having sex on command. It got worse after we married – I must have been insane to think it would change. I had him arrested countless times then drop the charges going back into the honeymoon stage.

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

After I had suffered a broken arm inflicted by him while attempting to flee on foot, he destroyed my car while it sat in our driveway. He busted every window out and rammed it with his truck so hard from the side it popped all four tires. I knew I had to get out but I had no car now, so I stayed long enough to play the good wife and he bought me one. Then when he assaulted me again, I stuck to my guns to the very end as hard as it was. I went to a shelter for abused women the night before court because he already had time suspended from being abusive to another woman before me and was looking at a 5-year sentence. They begged me to stay that night after the group session in fear he was going to try to kill me to keep from testifying. But I was hard-headed and knew I had places I could go I would be safe. My ex and I remain great friend to this day so I always went to his home, and it became my safe house. My husband was found guilty and got two months in jail which gave me time I needed to break the toxic addiction I had to him.

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

My abuser continued to call me from jail and it was a struggle still not to get sucked back in by his charm and manipulation. I was living with my Grandmother by that time, working again, and trying to get back to a normal way of life or the best I knew that to be. I went to counselling not only for the abuse but other things affecting my life and regained a relationship with my family. It was a slow painful process of breaking my addiction to this sick, toxic, violent relationship. If not for the support of my family and friends I’d be dead today. I saw and heard my mother being abused before she divorced my real dad, she was little bitty and it always seemed she never stood a chance against it. I guess somehow in my head I decided as a child I would fight back and I always did.

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

With so much information available online these days, I strongly urge women to use the court website and do some legwork. Find out if he has a history of drugs or alcohol as both do contribute to violent and abusive behaviour. If you’re lucky enough to live in a State that does allow the public to view domestic violence court records, please check them to see if he has a history of domestic violence with anyone before you, then run like hell if he does. If people tell you things about him don’t ignore them, most people just don’t make up stories about domestic for no reason. If your family and friends tell you something isn’t right with him, listen to them. Don’t ever give up your independence, allowing him to totally support you. Have your own money and savings. If you want to be a stay-at-home mom, discuss it with your spouse and and reach an arrangement for you to get a certain amount of money to save for a nest egg or invest for you own sense of security. If he doesn’t agree, then sock some away for an emergency situation anyway. I hope it’s never needed but financial dominance is one of the main ways they control you. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

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

There should be more resources for legal aid, safe housing, medical treatment, therapy and financial assistance for women and children fleeing a violent dysfunctional home. I am fighting very hard via my own FB site to get the authorities to make it mandatory for all states in the U.S. to allow domestic violence convictions to be just as accessible to the public just as sex offender registries are. If we knew beforehand that a person has a history of violence against women, children or anyone for that matter, most women would never become involved with such a person or consider having a family with him.This knowledge could prevent so much physical/emotional abuse and even death. They don’t have to list anyone’s name but his if the victim chooses they don’t want their name published or if it’s a child. Just that he’s a convicted domestic violence offender with a history of abusing women. Period.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support the Pixel Project because it’s the only organisation I’ve seen to go to such lengths to reach out to survivors. To let them be seen, heard and acknowledged they have been a victim but are surviving and thriving now, living a healthy happy life with no violence. I have found that many victims want validation, they want people to know the truth because offenders are able to lie and convince everyone else that we are lying, it never happened, or we are crazy seeking revenge. This just allows them to get away with what they’ve done and move on to the next victim that is clueless to his charge or in my case multiple charges against at least 5 different women in 20 years. The Pixel Project is helping to break the silence and that’s why they have my support 100 percent.