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 seventh Survivor Stories interview is with Raeanne Furfaro from the U.S.A.

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


The Survivor Bio:

I am a successful business woman with a great sense of humour and talent now. I have learned to not be afraid of whom I am, but to embrace who I have become. I live in Alaska where the violence against women is the most prevalent in the USA, where help is often a 300-mile trek in total blackness to get help, where you may have no place to go. I live in the city, but the women in the villages need me. I feel useful here. I love the state, the beauty, the wild. I am happy. 

Raeanne Furfaro1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I was a victim of domestic violence. It did not begin until about 3 years into the relationship, when it became common for beatings at least 4 times a week and verbal assault several times per day. I felt useless and afraid and unlovable. I felt I deserved each beating. I didn’t do the dishes right, I was worthless. After many years of hearing and living like this, it is like being brainwashed, I believed it : “You do this because you love me. I believed that for a long time. I had to learn. You isolated me from my sisters, from my friends.”

Imagine cowering in a corner, hands in front of your face, so he can’t kick you there, begging for it to stop, crying and screaming you’d be better: “Please, please stop kicking me. Stop throwing things at me, stop slapping me, stop holding my children hostage. Please stop. I’ll do anything, just stop.”

Even holding a gun to my face did not wake me up. Not until we moved to Idaho.

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

The final straw the night my house burned down. My husband had been drinking the night before, came home, smoking a cigarette, passed out and the cigarette smouldered in the cushions of the chair overnight.

When I thought he would kill me, I went to my friend’s house, we called the sheriff. My husband spent the night in jail. That was the beginning of taking my power back. I took advantage of the chaos, A couple of weeks later said I was going shopping and I never came home. I called from Boise and said I was leaving. I told everyone I was going to New York, I went to Washington. Yet I went back to him 8 months later and immediately got pregnant with my daughter.

When the abuse started again, I gathered my kids, got in the car and I drove toward Idaho with about.10 cents in my pocket. I ran out of gas, nothing to feed my children, crying at a gas station, ready to go home, defeated. I met a stranger, then another and another. They gave me gas and food.  Thank you, strangers, I wish I could remember your names. You saved my life.

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

At first I felt I had to validate myself through sexual relations to feel likable and desirable.

My friend gave me a career in her travel agency. I worked for free for a year, but I loved it. People were nice to me, I started to feel like I could do this. I was ok.

Then a young lady who was about 15 years old needed a place to live, I took her in and she gave me a lot of insight. Now it was my indignation at her being treated badly by her family. I started to really feel useful, loved, needed and respected. I continued to work 2-3 jobs while she helped me look after the kids. It was a growing time for both of us. We each learned love and how to have a life. I got my life back by giving to others.

It was a long journey of self-discovery that lasted about 8 years. Forcing myself to be alone with my own company, learning to like me for who I was. Finding my personality for the first time. Then loving that person I had become or perhaps always been and had buried.

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

Don’t be afraid. I know that is easy to say. I’ve been where you are. Tell someone. Anyone. I didn’t and if I had, I think it would have ended so much sooner. I didn’t know there was help out there. There is so much help. It is hard, it is not an easy journey, but in the end, it is so worth it. For your safety, your sanity and your very life. Tell someone and get the help. They will help you find the path to recovery. Then learn to like yourself, who you are, without shame. Then you will love yourself and be able to move on and have a happier life. What you choose to do with it is up to you, but do it. Don’t allow the violence to continue in front of your children. It is what they will learn. Be braver than ever thought you could and tell someone and find the help.

Remember this if you remember nothing else. Nobody treats people they love with violence. That is not love.

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

Education is the key. Teach your sons that violence is not acceptable. Teach your daughters that it is never ok to be used in any way that is violent. If you are overridden by an ex-spouse that abused you, remove the children from that influence.

Keep the conversation going. The more we talk, the more we’re heard. People will soon see what an epidemic this is. Formerly a silent one, now is the time to be outspoken, tell others of your experience if you can. This is my first time in 28 years of being able to tell my story. I did not think I had it in me. Don’t compare your abuse or violence with anyone else’s.

If you see a violent act, step in and say something. Call someone, do something to stop it. Do it safely, with no harm to anyone. Even if it is simply a matter of calling the police and taking a license plate number. Don’t be afraid to step up. Maybe you will be that stranger one day for someone else.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I believe in The Pixel Project’s mission of stopping violence together with men. It took me a good long while to get that concept, but many men are products of violent families. I believe in The Pixel Project’s belief that we can stop violence and if I can do just one thing in my life, this is what I will do. I believe that The Pixel Project is saving at least one life every single day. I believe I am saving a life every day. Because I keep the conversation going. I repost, retweet, repeat that violence is never the answer. I also support the fact that the funds raised go to their anti-VAW campaigns and programmes. I love that The Pixel Project gives us the support we need emotionally and with information we need to keep doing what we do to save more women from the agony of a lifetime of violence.