Archive for May, 2015

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: Ruthie Owen, 54, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our second annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2015. The project runs throughout the month of May 2015 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 2015 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 thirty-first 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Ruthie Owen from the U.S.A.

TRIGGER WARNING: The first two Q&As in this interview may be distressing for some Domestic Violence survivors.

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The Survivor Bio:

I am an author, a past A&R music scout for Arista and J/MLS Records, airbrush makeup artist and have two majors from college: Psychology and Business Marketing. I am very social, have a large family which is blood and not-blood related. I travel, am in my 50’s and enjoying life now to its fullest. “By the Grace of God”.

RuthieOwenPixelProject1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I was not raised in a home with divorce or violence. My parents had a loving 50 year marriage until they passed.

I fell in love at age 15 with a popular athlete at my high school who was 3 years older than I was. The first week of high school he “chose” me to be his girlfriend. We were inseparable and my parents did not like it at all. They saw his obsessive and controlling ways. I continued to see him and my parents told me “either never see him again or move out”. I was 17 years old and scared to death to leave home but I trusted him. We moved in together.

I was still in high school and 5 months into living together, we argued and he hit my face so hard that I had two black eyes and blood everywhere from my nose. I was in shock. I had to go to school with those black eyes and all knew what happened including my class counselor, but I lied to cover it up. I was raised that when I made a choice, I stuck with it. I stopped loving him the day he hit me the first time.

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

I moved out at age 18 and he was to move to another state for college. I didn’t love him anymore, but he came to see me before he left, asking me to please go with him and I got pregnant that day. I love my children so very much, but it was not a planned “good-bye” of mine. It was of his. He knew I would never give up a baby even though I was a teen, so I left my new life to once again be with him.

Over the years, he worked out of our homes. I was isolated, told not to leave the house and if I did, when to come back. We had two beautiful children together but I prayed every day that God would save me and my babies by letting us get free. I was verbally, physically and sexually abused for 8 years.

I had planned my “escape” with my small kids for 3 years. One day he left in a hurry and that was the answer to my prayers. I got my kids, their clothes, beds, toys and my clothes and left with no place to go far from home. But we were free.

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

It took me years to get over the abuse. The confident, popular, outgoing 16-year old that I was before I met him, was gone forever. I had to get her back. We had joint custody of our kids and moved back to the state where family was. I was still numb, scared and had no self-worth. When somebody calls you filthy names in front of your friends, family, and children for 8 years, humiliation sets in. I drank at night because I had panic attacks. I had PTSD and was later diagnosed by a psychiatrist as that. I went through years of therapy, peeling off one layer at a time of the damage that had been done. Trust was the hardest to get back. But, I quit drinking, stopped the cycle and never went back. I survived. That was 34 years ago. I am now almost 55 years old and an author on the subject of being a Domestic Violence survivor that I wrote in 2010 that is on The Pixel Project’s site.

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

I have learned to rely on my gut instincts and the knowledge that I have now. I recognise the controlling behavior that leads to abuse and stay far from it. I surround myself with positive, loving people and have gotten my trust back in good people. Watch out for anyone that comes on too strong, too quickly. That could be a new relationship or a friendship or a co-worker. They are very charming (75% out of %100) and will contact you often. It feels flattering at first, but if this person has a history of the same past relationships or has it in their family, hold your head up high and walk away. The true people are the ones that let you know they are there for you without even telling you. They do it by actions and not by words. They keep their promises and believe me when I say this; you can have a wonderful life once again. One step at a time.

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

Domestic Violence has always had (in the past when it happened to me) a secrecy about it. No one discussed it. It was “shameful, frightening and out of control”. Sadly, it was only when Nicole Simpson was murdered in 1994 that Domestic Violence had a voice. And as time has gone by, that voice has gotten louder and louder. No more suffering in silence.

It is not a topic that is pleasant at all but, I firmly speak on it because I have worked or known women who have been abused and wanted out of that. I would tell them exactly what had happened to me and what I learned. We are not their victims – the abusers are their own victim. Things happen in life and we don’t always understand why they happened to us, but it strengthens us to become more compassionate for others and we are no longer afraid. We unite more, speak louder and give hope so that more and more are not afraid to get out.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

It was in preparation of my e-book published in 2010, that I contacted The Pixel Project asking them if I could quote from their website. Regina Yau answered back and gave me permission for which I was so grateful. When my e-book was published, I sent The Pixel Project a copy of it and press release and they not only thanked me but listed my e-book on their international site and it is still there.

I support them for any and all types of abuse because The Pixel Project cares. They have been around for many with many resources and mentors. I applaud them so very much and will always support and refer anybody in this area, to them. THANK YOU PIXEL PROJECT.

SURVIVOR STORIES: Jennet Sullivan, 30, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our second annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2015. The project runs throughout the month of May 2015 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 2015 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 thirtieth 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Jennet Sullivan from the U.S.A.

TRIGGER WARNING: The first two Q&As in this interview may be distressing for some Domestic Violence survivors.

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The Survivor Bio:

Jennet Sullivan lost her mother, Suzette Threet, to domestic violence in 2009.  As she learned more about her mother’s struggle and the dynamics that affected her own view of a healthy relationship, she began learning about, and teaching others, in her field about the dynamics of domestic violence.  She hopes to help people understand the reasons people stay, and the insurmountable strength victims must have on a daily basis.  She is married to her amazing husband Justin, and they have two children, Benjamin and Eli.  When not working or teaching, she loves going on adventures with her family.

Jennet Sullivan_cropped1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I was raised in an abusive home, although at the time I didn’t realise it.  When abuse is all you know, it’s completely normalised.  My dad didn’t beat my mom in front of us, but he verbally attacked her and beat her down emotionally and mentally.  He would isolate her (and us children) from friends and family so effortlessly we didn’t realise we were under attack.

It was only after he murdered her – years after I had grown and left the home – that we realised he had been abusive for years. Many of my siblings still struggle with that influence which normalised abuse. It’s hard to fight against all that you’ve ever known.

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

I grew up and moved out.  As an adult, I struggled finding a healthy relationship.  I knew my parents’ relationship wasn’t healthy, but I didn’t know what a healthy relationship looked like.

My mother never escaped. She stayed in the abusive relationship until it literally killed her.  I share this story because she is not here to do it. I wish she had been able to leave, but sometimes I think that the things that tie us down are too strong to fight. I think she had been told time and time again that no one else would want her, that she wasn’t worth anyone else’s time. I think she was told that she couldn’t abandon him so many times that eventually she believed it. And that eventually cost her everything.

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

After my mom was murdered by my dad, the world stopped. Because he killed himself after he murdered her, we had to completely disassemble the world they had built.  We found diary entries where my Mother detailed the abuse, letters where he begged for another chance.  Broken promises hung in the air of their home.

I healed one day at a time. I met with strong women who could talk me through my grief, I was counselled, I prayed.  I turned to my faith in God, and he met me at my most broken and lost.

I slowly restructured my life with the knowledge that I could never again call my mom to ask for a recipe. I had to grieve the loss of her not only as my mother, but also as the grandmother of my future children.  Experiencing a violent event changes you forever; and while you can heal there will still be moments of grieving.

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

My situation is unique as I left the abusive home before I realised that it was abusive, and was third party to my Mother’s murder.  But I would share with women or teenagers that domestic violence is about power and control over a person. Every violent relationship starts out with verbal and emotional attacks. Learn the signs to recognise abuse and don’t let it change your heart.  Realise that you have worth and that in a healthy relationship you won’t feel worthless.  Don’t let them isolate you away from people who care. Never let another person devalue you.

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

I think we have to empower people with tools to recognise a healthy relationship.  Our culture is saturated with bad examples and our homes are creating future victims and abusers because people don’t realise how much children see, and how it helps shape their view of relationships.

We have to take back the power and control that abusers try to maintain in their homes and over their victims. We have to empower women, teenagers and all victims with healthy boundaries and tools to be comfortable and safe within a relationship.

We have to call out abuse when we see it.

We must convince women that love doesn’t hurt – emotionally, physically, or mentally.  We must convince women that that they are powerful people who have value as individuals. No one deserves to be abused, and all women should live with that knowledge and have resources to escape dangerous situations.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

Because I share the same vision that The Pixel Project has in ending domestic violence.  I like that it’s not just about ending violence, but about having the difficult conversations about violence.  Our culture has turned a blind eye to abuse happening, but slowly (with the support of organisations like The Pixel Project) we’re starting to talk about it more.  The more we talk about it and normalise the conversation, the more people will be empowered to make a difference in their own lives or the lives of others.

SURVIVOR STORIES: Brianne Coleman, 34, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our second annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2015. The project runs throughout the month of May 2015 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 2015 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-ninth 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Brianne Coleman from the U.S.A.

TRIGGER WARNING: The first two Q&As in this interview may be distressing for some Domestic Violence survivors.

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The Survivor Bio:

Brianne Coleman is first and foremost a mother and a wife.  She is a survivor of child molestation, rape and domestic violence.  When she is not with her loving husband and children, she is either working as a legal assistant in Chicago or acting as an advocate for both victims and survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.  She will be attending Graduate School at Purdue University in the fall to obtain her MBA and is currently writing her book of survivorship that will hopefully be published by the end of the year.  She has become the face of St. Jude House, a battered women’s shelter in Northwest Indiana and plans to continue the mission of St. Jude House and support others who have been in her shoes. In Brianne’s spare time, when she has some, she enjoys riding her motorcycle with her husband and bowling with her family.

Brianne Coleman_cropped1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

My youngest son’s father started his abuse three months into our relationship.  The first time he hit me was on New Year’s Eve 2002.  He beat me with a belt for an hour that time and forced me to sit in a scalding hot bath.

I left the following day, stayed away for a few months and during that time, I found out I was pregnant and went back.  He promised to get help, get on meds and never hit me again.  I believed him but the violence gradually got worse.  He locked me and my oldest son in our apartment for days and days without a phone.  He would come home and beat me, rape me and sexually assault me at gun point during my entire pregnancy.  He constantly threatened to kill our unborn son.  The day I came home from the hospital after having our son, he forced me to walk to the car instead of pushing me in a wheelchair. When I didn’t move fast enough, he kicked me in my private parts.  I was 24 hours post-delivery.  He was crazy and I was scared to leave.

He had severe mental illness and I knew I couldn’t stay much longer or he’d kill me. It was two months later, in November 2003, that he called me home from work and beat me for over three hours. His weapon of choice that day was his fists, plunger sticks, glass candles and whatever else he could find.  My oldest son was 2 ½ and watched the entire episode.  He was crying so hard that he vomited on himself and my son’s father literally threw him in the bathtub.  He had been abusive to him as well.  He hung me over the stair banister and threatened to kill me.  He kidnapped our infant son and took off.

I called my other son’s grandma and she got me out of the house.  We had to wait for the SWAT team before I could get my baby.  About three hours after I left, the police swarmed our apartment and he was arrested and my son was returned to me.

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

After he was arrested on November 13, 2003, I went to our apartment and gathered as many of my things as possible and went to St. Jude House, a battered women’s shelter.  The care I received was unbelievable.  They were great.  They were supportive and non-judgmental.

I stayed for a little over 60 days until I was able to get on my feet.  I got an apartment that they helped me furnish and we started our lives over again, fresh and anew.  I took him back one more time after that.  I still loved him.  He got upset with me one night because I didn’t want to have sex and he beat me and raped me again and slept with my phone so I couldn’t call 911.

The next day, I called the police and that was it.  I was done.  I never looked back.

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

Healing is a long and difficult process.  Admitting all the things that he did to me was the hardest.  I had a hard time accepting the fact that a man I loved could hurt me, rape me, and violate me in the way he did.  It was difficult.  I started rebuilding my life after the last time by signing up for college and getting my degree.  I wanted to do better for my children.

I managed to get my Associate’s Degree in less than a year and my Bachelor’s Degree in about 15 months.  In 2008, St. Jude House asked me to speak at their Annual Vigil as a survivor.  That was Stage 1 of my healing process.  I sought therapy afterwards and forgave him.  It’s part of the process.  I will never forget what he did to me and a part of me is still scared, but I have to remember that I am a survivor for a reason.

Earlier this year, I was asked to be the Guest of Honour for St. Jude House at the First Look for Charity Event hosted by the Chicago Auto Show.  I was able to tell my story in a docu-drama film that was shared at the event and has been shared at other events.  I plan on spending the remainder of my life being an advocate and telling my story to inspire others.

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

It is difficult to tell someone what to do in these situations because until they are ready to walk away, they won’t walk away.  I share this motto, “When the fear of staying is greater than the fear of leaving” is when victims become survivors and get away from their abusers.  At least that was the truth for me.

As an advocate, I encourage and support, offer resources and listen.  I am support.  I share my story as inspiration and hope to continue inspiring others.

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

Ending violence against women is a challenge because so many women don’t know the signs.  So many women have low self-esteem and those abusers prey on those women.  We need more support, more resources and more love from women.  So many women are afraid to tell their stories.

I created a support group on Facebook and many of the women, years after their abuse, are still afraid to tell their stories.  We need to find a platform where women of all cultures, all races, all socio-economic backgrounds can come together to uplift and encourage women.  It starts with each individual doing their part.

Also, laws need to be stricter for the abusers.  A slap on the wrist isn’t doing the trick.  Restraining orders mean nothing to abusers.  Stricter laws and more assistance to women who endure violence at the hands of men is a great start.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because it is an international organisation that can and will touch many men and women.  Social media is so large that it will reach wider audiences and that makes me happy. I love that celebrities are involved because, as we know, people follow celebrities.  I would love more than anything to be a part of this movement.  Stop violence against women.  That’s one of my very personal goals.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: Beth Taylor, 46, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our second annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2015. The project runs throughout the month of May 2015 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 2015 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-eighth 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Beth Taylor from USA.

TRIGGER WARNING: The second Q&As in this interview may be distressing for some Domestic Violence survivors.

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The Survivor Bio:

Beth Taylor is currently the Executive Director at Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Center of Scotland County. Passionately driven by her own experiences as a survivor of domestic violence, she began volunteering with another agency about five years ago, and within three years, she worked her way into her current position. In 2013, she was one of 20 women who were chosen by Pearls for Creative Healing (in Charlotte, NC) to share their stories in a powerful photo gallery exhibit. Beth is very active in her community getting the word out about the work they do at their agency. When she isn’t speaking, teaching, training, fundraising or writing grants, Beth is a member of the Triple Toe Cloggers Adult Dance Group and, along with her husband and daughter, takes Tae Kwon Do classes twice per week. She also volunteers with Richmond County Animal Advocates in Rockingham, NC, where she and her husband currently reside.

 

Beth Taylor1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I am a two-time survivor of domestic violence at the hands of men who professed to love me. The last one nearly killed me.

It still took me eight years after leaving that situation to really feel like I had healed and truly survived it. My self-esteem was still in the dirt, so I made my own “barriers” to rebuilding. It was not until I began to work in the advocacy field that I realised that I was also a victim of sexual abuse. Through school, training, and counselling, I have also acknowledged that aspect of my abuse.

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

I left the first abuser twice before finally being free from him.

The second one was much more dangerous when I was trying to make a plan to leave. My best friend, who was also my boss at the time, simply came into the house the morning after the final attack and got me and my stuff and took us to her house. If she had not gotten me out of there when she did, I have no doubt I would have been killed, likely within that same week. We had been together for over two years, and the abuse had escalated to a level of violence that came with no warning; he had gotten to a point where he was beating me in my face, and would laugh when I would beg him to stop. Death was not far from me, and I will always believe that my friend saved my life that day.

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

I ended up having to leave my job because he would not stop coming up there and calling and harassing me. I had not wanted to involve the police, but they ended up arresting him after an incident where he came on my job and started destroying store displays because I would not talk to him.

My overall healing and rebuilding did not begin until a few years later, when I relocated to North Carolina to make a new start, away from old acquaintances and bad decisions. It came to a point where I had to make a change for myself and stop getting involved with men who clearly did not have my best interest at heart. Finding myself again was paramount, and finally realising that I was worth way more than I had allowed myself to ever believe.

 

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

When a woman/girl realises that she is in an abusive relationship, she should let someone know; call a hotline, tell a friend. It is essential that she plan for her safety, as we know it is unlikely that a victim will leave after the first violent incident. Statistically, a woman has been battered/struck 30 times before she ever tells anyone or considers leaving the situation or seeks any kind of help, or even tells anyone.

After escape, the best piece of advice that I normally share with my clients is to spend at LEAST one year by yourself following an abusive relationship, and do not allow yourself to enter into a new intimate relationship. One thing you have to do after escaping an abusive relationship is to re-establish your autonomy and set your standards, as well as learning your real value instead of relying on anyone else’s opinion of what you should or shouldn’t accept. The hardest thing to regain is your self-esteem, and it’s even harder when you do not take that crucial time to heal from within.

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

By getting involved, and letting our communities know that this is unacceptable. I believe strongly that if there was an outcry from non-violent MEN who will stand up and say “You can’t do this to women”, that would send a strong message to abusive men, and let survivors know that they are standing up for us.

We also need to be having conversations with our local, state, and federal governments and putting on the pressure to have more stringent punishments for those who perpetrate violence against women.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project and their Survivor Stories Blog Interview campaign because I believe that it is of utmost importance for those of us who are active in the movement to make sure that people/supporters don’t become desensitised of the words “domestic violence”, “sexual assault”, “rape”, “violence against women”, or any of the many monikers that we have societally assigned to the atrocities that are committed against victims of these crimes. The best and most effective way to do that is to put the faces of real life survivors out there when we talk about it. When you put a name and a face to it, it’s much harder to turn your back on.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: Leslie Evans, 35, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our second annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2015. The project runs throughout the month of May 2015 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 2015 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-seventh 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Leslie Evans from USA.

TRIGGER WARNING: The first two Q&As in this interview may be distressing for some Domestic Violence survivors.

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The Survivor Bio:

Leslie Evans is a 36-year old single mother of four. In 2008, she received the Mother of the Year award from Emerge! Center against Domestic Violence in Tucson, Arizona. In 2010, she was recognised by the governor and received a Voices of Victims award. She is currently on the Share Committee, which is part of the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. In this capacity, she gets together monthly with other survivors and talks about current issues going on in her state and help finds ways to educate and spread awareness. Through the Collation she was given an opportunity to speak with professionals about what works and doesn’t work when helping victims by sharing her own experiences. She currently works as a private duty caregiver, a job which she created for herself. This allows her the opportunity to be a hands-on mother and be available to her children when needed. She has also found joy in sewing and is teaching herself to sew. She currently makes stuffed owls (Who’s Whoose made by Leslie) and hopes to sell them. She is also very involved in her church and is able to do outreach to other women in her community.

Leslie Evans1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I have now been physically separated from my abuser for two years. I have endured all kinds of abuse for the last 13 years, including physical abuse – hitting, punching, pushing; sexual abuse – rape, forced sex with other another person, etc., mental abuse and to this very day, verbal abuse and threats.

I have been called every name in the book to how much he loves me, to how much he believes I can not live without him. I am currently safe physically as I moved 100 miles away but he communicates with the children. I monitor their conversations and he knows it. Through the children he continues to verbally and emotionally abuse me. I continue to go to therapy and group therapy to build myself esteem and build strong boundaries.

It is hard to admit to rape when you are married but he did hold me down once and then many times just would not let me sleep if I would not have sex with or he would wake up the children when they were young to ensure that I would not get much sleep. He would often just say that I was not smart enough or not able to make good choices. I had let him do things because I believed his lies about not being able to function without him.

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

I snuck out many times when he was drunk. I guess I was lucky in that I knew he would pass out soon enough if I could just survive when he was awake. The last time he was drunk and attempting to do a cleaning job for my mother, she kept him distracted while I collected all of my belongings along with my children and within three hours I had quit my very good job, got out of my lease, picked up my kids and moved out of town.

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

The most important thing I did was seek help. And that was hard. It was very hard to find a non-crisis or non-shelter Domestic Violence group. I did find a group that I had to pay for and an amazing therapist. Without them I would have gone back to him a year ago. With their support I am able to find my reality and fight his lies.

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

You deserve love and joy. You are not crazy! He is!  You must find a support group. Al-Anon and CODA (co-dependency) groups will help if you’re unable to find one that is specific to abuse. You’re not alone. And it takes a long time to heal.

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

My belief is that you cannot end violence against women.  But I believe that just like racism will never be truly dead. However, a lot of people know it is wrong and they know what it sounds and looks like, so those who are racist have a harder time showing their true selves because it is not as socially acceptable as it once was. In the same way, we must make violence against women socially unacceptable so the perpetrators will find it hard to hide it, and victims will know sooner that what is happening to them is wrong.

We do this by talking about it. We do this by supporting victims. We do this by have better and stronger laws to make the abuser accountable for their actions. We do this by educate our children on what healthy relationships look like and sound like.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because they support me by telling my story through other people. When I read a story I know I am not alone. I know that I am on the right path. I know that he is not my oxygen. I can breathe without him and breathe well. I live well. I am finding my truth and my joy.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: Alice Argosino, 45, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our second annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2015. The project runs throughout the month of May 2015 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 2015 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 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Alice Argosino from the U.S.A.

TRIGGER WARNING: The first two Q&As in this interview may be distressing for some Domestic Violence survivors.

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The Survivor Bio:

I am Alice and I am, by profession, a fitness professional. I am a mother of 4 girls aged 13, 9, 6, and 5.  We are survivors of domestic violence.  We have been DV-free for 14 months and have endured degradation, humiliation and shunning from family and friends.  We are strong, we are bright, and we are beautiful, surrounding ourselves with only those that will treat us with kindness and understanding.  We have had our lives turned upside down by lethal violence and gender-based hatred but have climbed our way out of the dank abyss and stand proud of who we are and where we have come from.  

Alice Argosino1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

My daughters and I experienced domestic violence in varying forms.  As the female partner, I was strangled, kicked, thrown, held hostage, hit, kept awake, and restrained.  I was verbally and emotionally abused as well as fiscally abused.

My children, all under the age of 12, were called “stupid”, “fat bitches”, “whores”, “idiots”, and “pigs”.  They also experienced physical violence as well as emotional abuse.

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

After a particularly challenging day when my abuser beat me with the Christmas tree, kicked me, called me a whore, and continued to demean my person –all in front of my children – I filed for a protection order.  He was served and removed from our home several days later.

Through the grace of God and savvy professionals, after a court-appointed investigation, a full domestic violence protection order was issued.

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

I had become involved with our local domestic violence advocacy programme and through the kindness and support of my advocate, I was able to enrol in counselling for myself and my children.

We were put in touch with a pro bono attorneys group to help with any legal issues.  We moved to a new home and were enlisted in our state’s address confidentiality programme.  I utilised the National Domestic Violence Hotline as well as our local hotline for those moments when I felt lost and unsure.  I reached out for help and was fortunate to receive it.

I have shared my story with others and I will be speaking to schools about domestic violence.  I have volunteered for our local police department’s victim advocacy program.  I am healing by helping others.

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

I would recommend to anyone in a similar situation to seek help through a hotline or a local advocacy program.  Document the abuse if able and strategise: plan your escape or their removal.  Reach out to family and/or friends.  You are not alone.  There is an immense support system throughout that will stand by your side and help you through domestic violence.  Brace yourself for those that turn their backs.  They never were your friends.

Surround yourself with positivity and love yourself. Be kind to yourself and be forgiving to yourself.  You are valuable, you are beautiful, and you are strong.

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

Violence against women may end through education.  Teach the young about respect and love.  Publicise and ostracizse the men that degrade and violate women.  Sharing stories and experiences internationally, developing a wide net of support for victims and survivors.  These are just a few solutions to a complex and under recognised societal issue that deserves to be in the forefront of all rather than casting it aside as a private matter between man and woman.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

As they say, “Knowledge is power.”  The Pixel Project is helping to bring these “behind closed doors”issues to the forefront, raising awareness and developing dialogue.  Conversation is vital for recognition to any cause or issue.  Allowing victims to speak is a unique and special gift you have given not only for those that have suffered violence but for those that are unfamiliar with violence.

Unfortunately, there are a great deal of stereotypes and biases against women who suffer from domestic violence.  Educating society as a whole is an enormous task in its entirety but great strides are being made to whittle the ignorance gap. The Pixel Project’s Survivor Stories platform is giving a voice to those that may not have the strength to do so in person.  The Pixel Project’s mission will help save others and that is invaluable.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: Amanda Berg, 30, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our second annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2015. The project runs throughout the month of May 2015 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 2015 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-fifth 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Amanda Berg from the U.S.A.

TRIGGER WARNING: The first two Q&As in this interview may be distressing for some Domestic Violence survivors.

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The Survivor Bio:

Amanda Berg is not only a full-time student working on her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work, she has also gotten her four-year degree in criminal justice/client services. She has been telling her story going on 3 years and is also an on-call women’s advocate at her local women’s shelter. She is a wife, mom, Girl Scout leader, Boy Scout parent and looking forward for camping season to begin.  

Amanda Berg 11. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I got into a relationship with someone 6 years older than I was. He was very verbally, mentally, emotionally, physically, and sexually abusive. I have had a hunting rifle pointed at my head and still, to this day, have two scars on my legs due to being cut by knives.

While in that relationship I ended up getting pregnant and having a child. When my child was born he suffered also. When he was a baby, his “dad” stated he locked him in the vehicle ‘properly’ and when I would go to get my child out of the vehicle he would roll out with the car seat and hit his head on the cement. I would get punished for that.

No matter what I did, it was never good enough. I would get “punished” for anything and everything behind closed doors. I remember hiding many bruises and telling myself that if I had done things differently I would have never gotten hurt. I would always try and apologise for everything and tell him that I would make it up to him – just tell me what I can do.

The night I left the relationship was the night he put a knife to my neck while I was nursing my son. I was able to get my son and myself to safety.

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

The night I was able to escape I had two people that intervened: one of them called the police while I ran to hide and the other kept my abuser from running after me.

Once the officers arrived, they let me know that it was fine to come out and that I did not have to worry. My mom was on her way and things would get better. Once I did come out from hiding and my mom showed up and we were able to get things together.

The person that kept my abuser from running after me actually put him under citizen’s arrest. This was after my abuser tried pushing me, my son in my arms, and my mom down the stairs.

The responding officers also told me a day and time to go into the office and file an order for protection.

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

It took some time for me to know that my abuser was no longer around before I finally slowly started to look at things in a positive way. I then moved to a different area because I wanted to start life over for not just myself but also my son. It was a wonderful first step.

While I was in that new area I met a wonderful man who started to support me in my decisions. I went on to college to get my four-year  degree in criminal justice and client services. I currently speak to students in human relation classes and have spoken at a few other places.

I just got accepted for my social work degree and continue to have wonderful support. I found that taking little steps at a time have taken me a long way. It was never easy and I had many breakdowns along the way. My support system has helped me get where I am and I am more willing to share my story more and more.

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

You are a very strong individual who can accomplish anything you put your mind to. Life is not easy at all and don’t be ashamed to speak up. Talk to those you can trust and be open and honest. I understand that it is very scary but resources are available and there are places that can help. Never feel as if it is your fault and if you had done things different things would be better.

There is also always a honeymoon phase. This means that if you leave and promises are made, things will change – if you are lucky – for a few weeks. After that things will go back to the same. It is never easy to just walk away and not turn back. It is even harder when children are involved. It is hard without a support system, and when you think you are going to lose everyone if you leave the relationship, it makes it even harder.

Remember that you don’t deserve to be treated like you are a worthless piece of property. You are a wonderful, beautiful, smart individual who can reach for the stars.

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

I think there will always be problems when it comes to violence against women. People learn what is wrong or right while growing up and if they see that it is something that is generational it will be hard to break.

It is even harder considering some cultures feel that controlling their women is fine, that men need to be in control and the breadwinner. This is not true at all. Men do not need to control those that they love and care about. Women have a mind of their own and can speak up. They do have a voice. I think that as more people realised that abbuse is not right, then more may speak up.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I find that The Pixel Project is a wonderful organisation with so much to offer. It wants to raise awareness about violence against women and this is important since so many choose not to see it. I really like all the different information on their website and wish I was able to see some of this when I was in the relationship that I was in. I also think it is great that men are included in their work because men should understand what they can do to stop abuse. Also for those men that get into a relationship with a survivor it is nice that they have a place to get information.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: Britt Haak, 27, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our second annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2015. The project runs throughout the month of May 2015 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 2015 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-fourth 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Britt Haak from the U.S.A.

TRIGGER WARNING: The first two Q&As in this interview may be distressing for some Sexual Assault survivors.

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The Survivor Bio:

Britt is a social worker currently working as a mental health and substance abuse counsellor for adolescents in the Seattle area. Britt keeps busy by also coaching volleyball, performing in The Vagina Monologues to promote awareness and fundraising for local domestic violence agencies, and joining various local volunteer projects when there’s spare time. Outside of volunteering and working Britt is often exploring the Pacific Northwest with her dog or creating something usually by knitting, painting, or writing and hopes to one day turn her hobbies into something bigger. Britt’s greatest passion is helping sexual assault survivors on their journeys through recovery.

Britt Haak 11. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I was molested at age 5, date raped at 18, and raped at 20. The molestation occurred by another child whom I considered a cousin as our families were close. My attacker was found guilty and convicted for the crime. At 18, I was at a party and was the only person not drinking alcohol and I no recollection of the assault, only the marks of an assault occurring; I was a virgin. At 20 I was raped by someone I knew from high school, I was held down and forced to stay after the attack.

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

When I was molested I tried escaping but was unsuccessful until my parents called me up from the basement, I was forced to stay in a makeshift bedroom in the basement by my attacker. At 18, I began to get sick and my attacker left me. At 20, I waited until he fell asleep so I could make my escape. Once he started to snore I gently removed his arm from holding me down and sprinted towards the door and to my car.

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

The molestation wrecked my life. I had severe PTSD symptoms and suddenly felt like my eyes were open to all the bad in the world. The more pain I saw in the world, the more I felt compelled to change it. I knew then I wanted to help others who had experienced trauma.

By high school I knew I wanted to be a counsellor and began volunteering and researching as much as I could to learn more about how to help others. By college I was thoroughly committed to helping others and began working towards degrees that would allow me to do so. I also began speaking to friends and family about the attacks. I found my voice and I felt empowered.

I moved to the other side of the country to serve in AmeriCorps and there I found freedom, peace, and confidence. I felt free from my past, peace from the PTSD symptoms, and confidence that I can help others and work towards making changes so that those who have experienced trauma do not have to feel ashamed, broken, or worthless due to what someone else has done to them.

I now have my Masters in Social Work and have extensive experience and training in trauma informed care.

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

To find your voice and the life within you to keep going each day. What was done to you is not your fault. It is your abuser’s shame – their brokenness, and their feelings of being powerless and worthless. You did not ask for this and you do not have to let their shortcomings be your own. It is a tough journey and for each person it is different. However, you are not alone.

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

I believe that rape culture exists and that its pervasiveness is the cause for gender-based violence, therefore to end this violence we must end rape culture. As difficult as it is, survivors need to speak out and get involved in changing our society, policies, and laws. Women need to stop blaming other women and instead stand in solidarity and support.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because I have hope that the more voices that are heard, the more change is possible. I have hope that ending gender-based violence is possible.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: Donna Cairy, 36, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our second annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2015. The project runs throughout the month of May 2015 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 2015 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-third 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Donna Cairy from USA.

TRIGGER WARNING: The first two Q&As in this interview may be distressing for some Domestic Violence survivors.

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The Survivor Bio:

Donna Cairy was born on an Air Force base in Texas. She was raised in Illinois and currently lives in Wisconsin. She graduated with a BA in Deaf Education from Northern Illinois University and a MA in Education from the University of Wisconsin Platteville. She is a wife, mother and teacher of students with hearing loss. Donna is a survivor of domestic violence and for the first time in her life she is comfortable in her own skin. She is now married to her best friend and soul mate with whom she shares the most challenging and rewarding job she has ever had: raising their two young sons. 

Donna Cairy1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I am a survivor of domestic violence. I began dating my ex-husband while I was in high school. I did not know enough to see the warning signs while we were dating. He was an 18-year old alcoholic and I was a girl in love. The first act of violence that I remember was a night that it was snowing and cold. He pushed me down into a snow bank. We “mended” our relationship and got married when I was 18.

During pre-marital counselling the priest told me that my future husband would not be easy to live with. That prediction was true, my ex-husband was controlling and manipulative from the very beginning. He would constantly tell me that I was selfish and that I did not work hard enough. I was a full-time college student and working two part-time jobs. I had to keep everything in order at home: cooking, cleaning, and all of my “wifely duties”. Dinner had to be on the table at 6:30 pm sharp every night. I had $37 a week for groceries and I was required to eat all of the leftovers. More than once I got food poisoning from eating spoiled food.

I was also controlled sexually. I was given black eyes and bruises, all of which were “my fault”. I was raped multiple times and forced to do things in the bedroom that included being whipped for his pleasure. He would lock me in our apartment for 24 hours and force me to have sex every hour. He also whipped me every time I did something wrong.

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

My ex-husband decided that he wanted to be with someone else and moved in with another woman before we separated. He came home one night, said he was moving out and left. I stayed home from work the next day, cancelled joint credit cards, opened a bank account, and filed for divorce.

The next few months were not easy as we owned our home jointly and he would come in at all hours and further abuse me. I put a dead-bolt lock on my bedroom door and slept with a hammer for self-defense. I kept all important paperwork and valuables in my trunk. I moved out of our home two weeks after my divorce was final even though our home was unsold. We finally agreed that if he refinanced the home in his own name without me, I would pay off $6,000 in credit card debt. I lost a lot financially but it meant nothing as I gained my freedom and safety.  Those things meant the world to me because I knew what it felt like not to have them.

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

The healing was incredibly hard. I lost many friends and acquaintances, who did not understand why I lied to them about my relationship and also did not understand why I stayed. I began counselling while I was going through my divorce and joined a divorce support group. Both were helpful, but I left counselling because I was just not ready to deal with me.

It was not until after I met an incredible man who is everything that my ex-husband was not that I began looking at me and why I chose an abusive relationship. I started counselling for anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I worked for seven years on how to learn to trust others and most importantly love myself. I refused to allow my abusive past to repeat the cycle with my children and my new husband.

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

Please do not  listen to the judgments of others who have not walked in your shoes. People mean well but do not  understand the means you have to use to just survive. Also, there are resources and people out there who can and will help. Use these resources and people and if you have to use them more than once it is okay.

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

Violence is a learned behaviour. Children learn from the relationships and patterns they see as they grow up. Men and women need to teach their children that violence is not acceptable. Above all actions speak louder than words and parents need to live what they teach.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

Organisations like this are vital in spreading the awareness of violence and letting women know that they are not alone. Violence against women crosses all races, colours, and creeds.  The Pixel Project demonstrates this and connects survivors across the world.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: Carrie Peterson, 44, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our second annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2015. The project runs throughout the month of May 2015 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 2015 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 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Carrie Peterson from USA.

TRIGGER WARNING: The first two Q&As in this interview may be distressing for some Domestic Violence survivors.

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The Survivor Bio:

I come from a long line of independent, strong-willed women who were educated and well-respected both within our family and in their communities. There was no question that I would go to college and have a career, and I gladly took on new challenges and adventures. I was so independent and career-oriented that, when I became a mother, my friends were surprised that I chose to stay home with my kids. 

Carrie Peterson1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I was a Russian Studies major in college. I did a study abroad programme in Moscow in 1994. It was during that time when I met a young officer in the National Honor Guard of the Russian Army. Our meeting was like something out of a romance novel; I was completely swept off my feet by this handsome young man. I had an opportunity to stay and work in my field, so I dropped out of school and moved to Russia permanently.

He found us a modest apartment, and this is where the wonderful young man turned into a monster. At first, he would lock me in our apartment and would not allow me to leave, would beat my arms until they turned black and purple, and broke my rib. He would pour water on me, and then lock me on our balcony when the temperature was 30 degrees below zero; he often threatened to burn me with an iron. I lived in constant fear of his jealousy.  One night, he sat on my chest, held my arms down with his knees, strangled me with one hand and held a pillow over my face with the other.  And then he just … stopped. It was then I knew I had to leave him.  We had been together over three years.

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

My driving force was the thought of having children with him and them watching him beat me. But I also aged so much during that time and my face looked haggard and old; I hated looking in the mirror. It was difficult to find someone who would help me; not just give words of encouragement but actually help. I was blessed to be working with another American who pushed me to leave and helped me so much.

Over a month, I squirreled away some money and took time off from work to look at apartments. One day, my American friend and his wife helped me pack all of my stuff into big black garbage bags, load them in a taxi, and just leave. My boss was very understanding of the situation and gave me several days off work.  My boyfriend broke into the office and caused a huge scene, but no one told him where I was.

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

It was initially difficult to rebuild my life because he did not want to leave me alone. He paid co-workers to give him my address and phone number. He would stalk me and repeatedly call my house. Finally, he showed up with his friend outside my work; his friend worked with the government and was allowed to carry a gun. I think he intended to kill me, but many of my friends from my office came down and protected me. That is when I knew I was not alone, and that my friends were there for me.

From then on, he occasionally called, but mostly left me alone and never again came by my house. My friends saved me that day and helped me so much to heal over the next few months. It was difficult for me to confide in and accept help from other people, but learning to do that made all the difference.

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

Just because you come from a good family, are well-educated and attractive does not mean you are immune to these relationships. One of my biggest obstacles was realising I was in one of “those” relationships; a relationship I arrogantly assumed I could avoid because I was “too smart” for that.  But know that no woman is immune to abusive partners (who may also be smart, handsome, and educated) and do not be ashamed to admit that you are in a relationship that is hurting you.

When you leave: It will not be easy. It will be one of the hardest and loneliest things you will ever do. You will face countless struggles and have to overcome countless obstacles. And it may take a while to heal, but know that you would never have changed them, and you would never have had a better or even different life with them.

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

Almost every argument my boyfriend ever started was because of his uncontrollable jealousy and his idea that I belonged to him.

The most important step would be reprogramming society to stop thinking of people as property.  Unfortunately, I see this becoming an issue with women thinking they “own” their men, too. No one is an object to possess, we are all people on separate paths and no one has the right to control anyone else.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

It is so important to let victims of abuse know that they are not alone. It is important to share these stories so that the women reading them can say, “That story is so similar to what is happening to me!”  I know there were many times I felt like a complete idiot for staying with him; if organisations like The Pixel Project had been around back then, I may have seen the dangers earlier and would have left the relationship before it reached the point where my abuser nearly killed me.