Archive for May, 2015

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: Theresa Smith, 32, 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-first 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Theresa Smith  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 became a published author at the age of 31 with my debut book, “Karma, A Book of Short Poems”. After surviving an abusive relationship a few years prior to this, I felt it was imperative for me to be great. Although my poem book has a variety of poems, there is one titled “Devil” in which I speak about the physical abuse I endured. I overcame the fear of another human being, so now I know I can survive anything. I am not an anti-domestic violence advocate yet, however I do speak to women about my experience, and advise them of signs that their significant other may become abusive at some point. I have an 11-year old son so my spare time pretty much goes to him. I try to find different activities that we can do together and both enjoy. I also like to go out with my friends and older sister, because every woman needs a girls’ night every once in a while.


Theresa Smith1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

My name is Theresa and I have been domestic violence-free for five years. In 2007, I started dating a guy who was four years younger than me. We got along great and he seemed to be nice. We moved in together about eight months after dating, and that’s when he showed his true self. I found out that not only was he physically abusive, but that he was also a chronic liar and an alcoholic. It started off with verbal abuse, which I blew off because I did not think it was that serious. I learned to never blow that off though. It’s a major red flag.

I was in an abusive relationship for two years. I have been hit, choked, pushed, have had busted lips, a bloody nose, and my collar bone has also been broken from the abusive relationship I was in. And that was just the physical part. He also tore down my self-esteem and made me feel fat, ugly, unwanted, and unworthy.

It took me years to finally build myself back up. This experience made me stronger, so in my eyes, his plan backfired.

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

I was able to leave him once I got fed up. Everyone has a breaking point, and once he broke my collar bone my survival instinct kicked in. I stopped fearing him, and starting fearing for my life. I didn’t want to die so I took all that fear and turned it into courage. I finally got the strength to reach out to someone.

From that point I got a restraining order which automatically evicted him from the house we lived in together. I cut off all communication with him and carried that restraining order with me at all times. Most importantly I prayed, A LOT.

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

I overcame my situation by praying for healing, forgiveness, and strength. I was able to find something good out of such a horrible situation. It didn’t kill me, it made me stronger, wiser, smarter, and more aware. Once I left him I felt like could accomplish anything. Overcoming my fear for him allowed me to overcome other fears. I ended up publishing my first book in 2013. I wrote poetry so it is a poem book called “Karma: A Book of Short Poems.” One of my favourite poems in the book is the one I wrote about freeing myself from the abusive relationship.

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

For any female who is in an abusive relationship, I would say, SPEAK UP. Unfortunately a lot of people wait on the battered woman to speak up before they act on anything. Also it is very important to push your fear to the side. PRAY. STAY STRONG. SPEAK UP. FIGHT BACK. Call a Domestic Violence hotline. Tell someone you trust because they will reach out for help FOR you if you are too scared.

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

We can end it, or at least make other people aware – not just women, but everyone. A person in an abusive relationship needs to know that someone has her back. If none of her family or friends speak up, but they KNOW she is being abused, then she will feel alone. If a person feels alone and scared then of course they are going to stay in the relationship because they think there is no way out.

I also think a law needs to be made that if cops are called to the same address numerous times about this issue, even if the woman says the man did not do anything, he should be arrested.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because I was that woman. The one being abused. The one too scared to speak up. The one too afraid to leave. I felt so alone although I really was not alone. Domestic violence is never ok, so anyway that I can help, I surely will. Every woman should know that it is NOT okay for a man to put his hands on you. Every woman should know that there is help, and they can get out. There is life after an abusive relationship, and it can be as beautiful as you decide to make it.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: Sandra Pickens, 48, 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 twentieth 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Sandra Pickens from the U.S.A.

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The Survivor Bio:

Sandra D. Pickens, M.S. is a published author, her debut book “Summer Internship,” huge proponent with working with the Native American community in creating awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault issues, and dreams of opening her own transitional women’s facility for survivors of domestic violence and mentally ill single women. After her ordeal and relocation, she went on to continue her education. She joined E.Y.E.S. – an organisation at East Central University, Ada, Oklahoma, that assisted students who were going through domestic violence, partner violence and sexual assault. She was also invited to share her story on a panel with the Department of Justice and was interviewed by Native Times newspaper in 2013. Sandra earned her Master’s in Human Services and graduate honors sash from her tribe, the Chickasaw Nation. In 2010, she did a PSA regarding domestic violence that was to be shown during a presentation by President Obama. She is single, happy, member of the Las Vegas Dream Center/ICLV church and living in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Sandra Pickens1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I come from a background of generational domestic violence and sexual abuse. My ‘picker’ was off in my 20’s and 30’s, always choosing the wrong men. I did not love these men, but I wanted a sense of belonging and put up with the abuse until I would snap and I decided to leave before I end up committing murder.

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

The very last time I was involved in a relationship and domestic violence was in 2005. I was at a truck stop in Phoenix, Arizona and my abuser had left me there for 90 minutes to go be with a prostitute or do drugs. He came back and cursed me and insulted me and I got fed up. He did not like my tone and pulled out a pistol and put it to my head. I told him to pull the trigger because I am tired. I turned my back to him and walked away.

That was the longest walk of my life.

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

That moment I walked away was the moment that changed my life forever. I took a year to make some major decisions in my life. I did not get any counselling, but I turned to my higher power – my God – to help me deal and heal.

On March 7, 2007, I arrived in Oklahoma and started working on Sandra. I spent the next five years not getting involved in serious relationships but learning how to be with myself and enjoy my company and realise that I deserve more in my life from someone else.

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

I would share that you can do bad by yourself. No one can satisfy you, but yourself. Before you can enjoy life, you need to learn to enjoy the company of yourself. You do not have to put up with someone talking and treating you like trash. Learn to be your own woman and take care of you first!

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

If it is generational violence, we need to deal with the abusers to get them out of that mindset that it is okay to hit women. We need to educate our young girls and women that they do not have depend on another person to take care of them and that if someone says they are pretty, that does not necessarily mean that he likes them.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

If this organisation can change at least one life, this is the greatest organisation. Women need to see that they are not going through their situations alone.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: Rhonda Myers, 31, 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 nineteenth 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Rhonda Myers 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:

My name is Rhonda. I am 31 years old and a survivor of domestic violence. I was a victim at the hands of my biological father, both mentally and physically. Since then I have rebuilt myself, acknowledged the issues it caused me, and worked to fix them. I have grown. I am now working full-time in a hospital and I also go to school full-time, working on my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Child Learning and Development. I plan on attending Grad School in the near future to get my Master’s in Clinical Psychology and obtaining my license to be a counsellor.

Rhonda Myers1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

My biological dad was a very violent man. He was both physically and mentally abusive to my mother and I. I cannot recall how many times I sat in the back of police cars and in hospital rooms with her because of his violence. I witnessed and was made to do things that I cannot even describe, both violent and sexual, because they are much too graphic.

I developed a fear of speaking due to witnessing time and time again his physical abuse on my mother for simply saying anything at all. I was terrified he would do the same to me and he described, in detail, what he would to me and how he would kill my mother and make me watch, if I did not behave in ways that he seemed fit, which was silence.

Growing up and going to school, I was terrified to speak, even after we got away from him. My mom used to have to write letters to my teachers explaining why I would not speak and I was scared of anyone I did not know.

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

With the help of family, and finally a court order, my mother and I were free from him. We lived with family for a while, during the time that my mom was building a new life for us. I recall the countless times he tried to take me away and I remember hiding from him when he would show up unexpectedly. As my mom grew stronger, she was less scared to take action against him and he finally realised she was not afraid of him anymore and would continue to fight against him, for her life and mine.

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

Healing and rebuilding took time and patience. As I watched my mother become stronger, I knew I could too. Speaking anywhere besides at home took time for me. It was very hard and sometimes it still is when I meet someone new, especially a male.

For a long time I thought all males were violent and it took time to understand they were not. Some days were easier than others at the beginning, but we pushed on. The stronger my mother got, the stronger I became. Family love and support helped us when we became discouraged. We have a bond now that is unlike any other and that bond is unbreakable. The trials helped us become closer and we know that we will always be there for each other.

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

Understand it takes time and patience to get out of and/or fix the situation. It CAN be done. These things are not your fault, even though you may truly believe they are. There is so much support out there for you, you just have to let someone know. Talking about it is the first step and I know it is completely terrifying but you deserve to live a happy and safe life. We all do. I never thought I would be in a position to be able (or even live) to share my story and hope it encourages others to seek help, but I am here. And you can be here too.

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

Raising awareness is what we need to continue to do. Speaking out, sharing our stories, and spreading the word can have a great impact. Education is highly important as well, and it needs to start young. Educate both boys and girls about violence, and equal and human rights. Social media can be great to spread the word. Speak up against violence of women, sexism, and stop demeaning the feminine. Volunteer and/or donate to legitimate charities and organisations that advocate for women.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I discoveredThe Pixel Project through the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV). As I read through their previous campaigns and projects, I felt incredibly moved by their efforts to end violence against women. They raise awareness in unique ways and encourage education and this is something I strongly agree with. As a survivor, I feel it is important to discuss, share, and encourage so that others in the same situations see the light we are shining at the end of the tunnel, and I feel that The Pixel Project is doing just that.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: Lindsay Fischer, 32, 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 seventeenth 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Linsday Fischer 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:

Lindsay Fischer is a former high school English teacher, turned domestic violence author, advocate and public speaker. Over the last four years, she’s written a blog and guest posted across the internet as Sarafina Bianco, even self-publishing her memoir, The House on Sunset, under this name. In April, Lindsay identified herself as the author and furthered her reach by doing trainings with organisations impacted by DV and sharing her story with anyone who will listen. She hopes to humanise abuse, debunking societal myths and detailing trauma. You can find her words and mission at http://survivorswillbeheard.com

 

Lindsay Fischer1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I survived an eighteen-month violent relationship with a sociopath (outwardly successful, handsome and intelligent, but inwardly dangerous), including physical, sexual, emotional, spiritual and financial abuse.

During my relationship, I lost my job. After leaving, I lost my house and car. At twenty seven years old, I was unemployed and homeless, only three years after starting a successful career as a high school English teacher.

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

Before leaving, I feared escaping because I thought he’d kill me if I tried. A few days before I left, he held a gun to my head, telling me, that he loved me so much he could kill me. Then, the day I left, he threw me down a flight of stairs and kicked and choked me on the basement floor. I knew in that moment, that he was going to kill me whether I stayed or left, so I made the choice to leave.

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

For the first year afterward, coping was difficult. I was self-harming and self-medicating to deal with my PTSD. My experience taught me that the aftermath is just as difficult to cope with as the abuse, but I couldn’t afford therapy due to the financial abuse. Searching for a way to heal, I began blogging under my pseudonym.

When other survivors reached out to me, sharing their stories and thanking me for mine, I realised that writing was helping. Along with that, someone wrote me about non-profits who offer free trauma therapy. One Google search later, I found a local group that offered free trauma therapy and called them immediately. The wait list was long, but six months later I started their programme, graduating three years after I began. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitszation and Reprocessing), individual and group therapy were all included.

Sometime during that period, I wrote my book and started a Twitter chat called #domesticviolencechat to reach other survivors. I began teaching again and moved to distance myself from my abuser. The process was long and hard, but absolutely critical to rebuilding.

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

It’s normal to feel alone and normal to question your thoughts, beliefs and actions. Being traumatised shuts down the logical part of your brain, and getting that to work again can be difficult. Look for ways to heal yourself, especially if you can find a non-profit who offers any type of support. You can find these by reaching out to big organisations like NCADV. Even in the painful moments of life after trauma, it’s still more rewarding and worth it than staying in a dangerous environment.

Talk to other people who’ve survived what you have, practice self-care every day, and remember that you’re not alone, you can heal and there are people who want to help.

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

By continuing to have the hard conversations about the existence of VAW and educating society about its prevalence. Our culture doesn’t realsze how engrained VAW is in mainstream life (including media) and we need to be adamant about pointing this out as we continue progressing towards a safer world.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

Because the Pixel Project supports women like me, who’ve survived violence. They also educate society. One look at their mission statement better explains how their purpose aligns with mine. It’s time we stand up, all of us (men and women) against this violence. The Pixel Project helps.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: Kathlene Russell, 58, 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 sixteenth 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Kathlene Russell 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 the mother of three beautiful children and grandmother to two handsome boys.  I have a Master’s Degree in guidance and psychological services.  After surviving domestic violence, I began to work in the field of domestic violence awareness and prevention and retired in 2011 as the Executive Director of The Women’s Center, Inc., a domestic and sexual violence centre in Pennsylvania, USA. I now am a small business owner and live a violence-free life near my daughters.

mom1_21. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I experienced domestic violence at the hands of a lethal batterer.  Over the course of four years I sustained numerous injuries, including a broken back.  Upon leaving I was examined at the hospital and the medical record said that my body was “a mass of bruising of various ages.”

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

We – my three children ages 12, 8 and 1 and I – went to the Lancaster Shelter for Abused Women in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. They gave us a safe place to begin our recovery and helped me negotiate the often hostile, always confusing, legal system. I credit them with helping to save my life and the lives of my children.

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

We, my children and I, rebuilt our lives together as a team. While the violence was directed solely at me, my children were obviously affected as witnesses to the violence. We experienced the violence together and worked to heal and rebuild our lives together. Together we became survivors.

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

You are never to blame for the violent acts of another – simply, never. You should never tolerate the abuse or violence of another – simply, never.

I thought all of the things that you are thinking. I thought it was, at least sometimes, my fault.  I was wrong. There is nothing I could have done that would ever justify violence against me. I thought it would get better if I only learned not to do the things that I knew would irritate him. I was wrong. There is nothing I could have done that would make it stop. Every time he beat me I learned to not do the thing that he said made him beat me. But there was always another time, always another thing, that he said would make him beat me.

I thought I was trapped; I thought I could not leave. I was wrong. Yes, I had three children and had no job, no family support. Yes, I was alone. Yes, it was hard. But I did it. Slowly, I put the pieces of my life back together. And my children grew up. And I have never been hit again. I did it, and so can you.

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

There is a great deal that has to happen if we are ever to end violence against women. We have to elect more women to public office. We have to pass the Equal Pay Act. We have to change the cultural bias against women. We have to change our educational system so that girls are not disadvantaged. We have to involve non-offending men in a supportive role to our efforts. But most importantly, we survivors need to keep telling our stories. We cannot allow our voices to be silenced. People need to hear that we are here, that we have suffered and that we have overcome.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because of how vital I think victim and survivor stories are to the movement to end violence against women.  Projects that put survivors and victims front-and-centre are doing the best work possible.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: Michelle Jones, 25, 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 fifteenth 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Michelle Jones from the USA.

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

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The Survivor Bio:

Michelle B. Jones is a writer and advocate for survivors of sexual assault. She uses her blog, refuge2224.blogspot.com, to document her journey of four years. She also uses it as an outlet for other survivors to share their stories anonymously for their voices to be heard, without the backlash of victim blaming. She is also active with public speaking to stop violence against women.  She loves spending her down time with her rescue corgi mix, Mia. They go to the dog park, go shopping at Petco, or just play on the farm! She also loves spending time with her family members. Call of duty with her nephew, yoga with her niece, nonstop laughter with her sister and quality talks with her mother are a few of her favorite things.  You can find her on Facebook, Twitter (Shelly_Bean89) and Instagram (Michellebrooke89). 

IMG_77801. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I was raped/sexually assaulted while I was unconscious. I had been talking to the man who did this to me a few months prior to the attack, and had told him that for us to work we would have to take things slow. So, he took matters into his own hands, and took advantage of a situation – while I was passed out from drinking too much he sexually assaulted me.

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

When I came too, I had this man on top of me, violating me. I was frozen and couldn’t move. I was in shock. Someone I thought I could trust was doing the unthinkable to me and I was terrified. At that moment, I knew that everything I thought I knew of this man was a lie and I had no idea what kind of person he was.

Every scenario flashed through my head, I didn’t know what he would do if I put up a fight and he was twice my size. So I thought, “Maybe if he realises that I am coming too, he will stop.” And that is exactly what he did.

He stumbled off me, and pretended to just be cuddling me. He was not expecting me to come too while he was doing this to me. I played dumb and sick, until he finally offered to take me home. After that I texted him and told him that I knew what he had done, and to stay away from me. He openly admitted to it, and apologised.

Word spread and story after story came up of him doing this and much worse to other girls. So I pressed charges. After that, his frat brothers messed with my car, messed with my apartment, and ran me out of town. I moved to a town where I didn’t know another person and continued to spiral out of control.

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

After I moved I started drinking every day and refused any help. The court hearings lasted about a year. I took the stand numerous times, where I was made to feel like a whore, like I had asked for it. I was defending myself when I was not the one on trial. Our government spends so much time with the “innocent until proven guilty” thing that they make the victim feel like the guilty one for speaking up. This worsened my depression.

I gained a lot of weight and really didn’t care if I woke up each morning. It took my mother breaking down to me and telling me that her daughter’s rapist had taken her smile away, had taken her daughter away. I knew then that I couldn’t keep doing this to myself and my loved ones. I was slowly killing myself.

So, I started off with baby steps. I read books and listened to music that helped me cope. Then I finally got into counselling. I started blogging about my journey. Every feeling I had and every situation I went through, and without realising it at the time, I had started to inspire others. Other survivors came to me with their stories, in search of their own voices. So I gave them an outlet for one. They wrote out their stories and any feelings they had, in their own words anonymously. They had no one to victim blame them and had a chance to be comfortable.

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

I would tell them to express what they are feeling. Find a comfortable way, whether it is counselling, through art, writing, or just talking about it with loved ones. I truly believe that getting back your voice after trauma is a huge step in the healing process, it’s what saved me.

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

Acknowledging that it is happening. Instead of pointing at it and saying “this is what it is and this is what it is doing” our society takes the easy route, and that mostly consists of blaming the victim. Women throughout history have fought countless times to have the same freedom as men do. But once someone takes the one thing that we have fought so hard to get – our voices – the damage that does can be catastrophic. Our laws and our society as a whole should be helping women when they feel lost, not kicking them when they are down.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because you all are striving to raise awareness for women who struggle more than most people will ever realise.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: Kerry Fagiolo, 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 fourteenth 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Kerry Fagiolo 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:

My name is Kerry and I am a survivor. I am a mother of two children and am very happily married to my best friend Anthony whom had I found courage through meeting, along with my church. I have been a registered nurse for almost 25 years and worked full time up until the time of my injury.  After 22 hours of surgery and years of rehab both mentally & physically, I am ready to educate and help others understand that Domestic Violence does not discriminate. It is an extremely uncomfortable topic for many victims but more so for support people such as family and friends. I got away…but not without battle wounds.

IMG_14181. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

My experience with Domestic Violence included mental, physical, verbal and sexual manipulation and abuse by a male that I had worked with at a hospital for over nine years.

He “took me in” when I was going through a divorce and used my situation as an opportunity to increase his bank account as well as provide him with a live-in babysitter. I was slammed against a shelf in a closet by him and sustained a broken back. This was one of many abusive outbursts by this person during the short time we were together. He was verbally, mentally, sexually and physically abusive to me. He was an opportunist with a history of seeking newly divorced females (per court records).

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

This relationship finally came to a halt when I moved out of the home and hid in a safe house for six weeks.

I was punched in the face by him directly in front of my daughter and his son, something that had never occurred in front of others. He realised that he made a grave mistake because both kids were able to share the story. When he went to work at six the next morning, I rented a Uhaul, packed up as many of my belongings as I could, and went to a home that he was unaware existed.

I refused to share my whereabouts with him (although he tried for six weeks to follow me and find where I was staying). Ultimately, he found me and the stalking began. There was a great deal of police and legal involvement which finally resulted in his arrest for stalking and breaking a restraining order.

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

I am still rebuilding my life. The mental scars are deeper than the physical scars. I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and night terrors. I have a counsellor that I continue to see. I got very involved in my church and attended a meeting for battered women.

It is very hard to rebuild when most people (family and friends) do not want to speak about it. I think if they were aware/educated more about Domestic Violence they would help me heal more.

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

I would suggest that any single female who is going to date a man do a background check on them first. If I had done so, I would have seen the long list of restraining orders against him as well as arrest records.

I would also encourage people to listen to their instincts. If it does not seem or feel right, it isn’t.

Lastly, never allow yourself to become isolated from family, friends or work peers. A huge tactic of abusers is isolation.

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

Educate, educate, educate.  Share testimonies of survivors face-to-face with young middle school and high schoolers. I believe that the abusers do not just become abusers – I feel the patterns are there from a young age and can be recognised very early on in life by teachers, parents and friends.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because the more the community is saturated with education and real life stories of struggles and survival, the more aware and proactive in prevention we as a community will become!

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: Joy Lyn, 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 thirteenth 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Joy Lyn from the U.S.A.

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

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The Survivor Bio:

In her day job, Joy K. Dennis is an educator. She teaches college level writing and middle school language arts. She does freelance proofreading, editing, public-speaking and consulting. She enjoys her work because it permits her to serve others with her gifts. She is a devoted reader of memoir and self-help books. She is an advocate of domestic violence awareness through public-speaking and writing. Her blog One Day at a Time  is designed to encourage survivors and victims and to inform them as well as others about domestic violence. Joy has always loved words, language and expression. Constant reading and regular writing have been a great help in healing her from the scars of a troubled past. She will be releasing a memoir titled Tears of Joy with the pen name Joy Lyn in honor of her late parents Carolyn and Ronald Lynn Dennis.

Joy Lyn_croppedcom1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I experienced domestic violence in my first serious relationship. He choked me, dragged me across the floor of our apartment by my hair, slammed me against a wall repeatedly while I was in the first trimester of a pregnancy, berated me with words and cheated on me, amongst other things. He also dictated what I should wear and how; which of my friends were okay to hang out with and which ones were not; and even when I could see my family.

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

After one particular incident when he abused me I was so frightened I went to the police and told them I felt unsafe with him and finally decided I wanted a restraining order.

They took a statement then arranged for me to speak with a case worker.   She was very kind and non-judgmental. She listened carefully to everything I said and told me I was being abused. She told me I needed to leave because it was a vicious cycle that would not stop. Until that moment I had no idea what I was experiencing was abuse. Knowledge was my first step in leaving.

After that, I told my family and they helped me remove myself from him. It was not easy or possible without the loving and kind support of others. I did not tell him I was going. He always used whatever he knew in advance against me. I just made arrangements to leave and one weekend I moved out unannounced.

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

When I was finally free of his physical presence I was wounded. I was unable to cry for a whole year about all the terrible stuff I had been through. During and after the year I left him, I could not really function. The second year after leaving him I started going to therapists which helped.

Later I joined a domestic violence group through the local battered woman’s shelter programme. It was so healing to meet other survivors and sufferers and to exchange our stories and encouragement with each other. That started me on a path to self-help that I have remained on. I also read inspiring material as much as I can. The book “Encouragements for the Emotionally Abused Woman” by Beverley Engel, changed my life in a positive way.

When I could find the words, prayer helped me alot. Most of all, my connection to the Divine Source kept me alive.

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

I would suggest that she do everything possible to preserve herself. There are so many resources. I know from experience when you are living in that personal hell you feel so alone, but you are not.

Do not be ashamed to get help. There are shelters, programmes and even housing to support and protect you. Once you and your kids are safe, then work on restoring yourself, building yourself up. In surviving an abusive situation, you are fortunate, but few of us are whole. I was broken when I escaped. I was just a shell of my former self, and maybe that’s what you feel like too. But guess what? You can be filled up again. No longer with heartache, low self-esteem and mistreatment but with respect, care and love.

Maya Angelou once said, “Surviving is important. Thriving is elegant.” Don’t just survive, thrive.

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

I think we can end violence against women by ending violence against children. All abusers were children once. Children who experienced or saw or felt something that triggered abusive behavior in them. Children are innocent and they shape the future. Every victim and survivor were children once. They experienced or saw or felt something that made them vulnerable to domestic violence. We have to nurture and guide and provide for all children, for they hold the key to the future.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because it seeks to help others in a cause that is near and dear to my heart. My mother and maternal aunts were abused by men, and so was my grandmother and my great-grandmother. Not only is domestic violence a cycle in relationships, it is a cycle in time. Generations of women in my family have known nothing else. I want to break the cycle in my family and help other women do the same.

Another reason I support The Pixel Project is because there is an element of shame in domestic violence. So many victims don’t speak up. So many survivors do not come forward. Having a voice is empowering. When you are abused you are often robbed of the power of your voice. The Pixel Project gives us a voice.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: JoAnn Buttaro, 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 twelfth 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with JoAnn Buttaro from the U.S.A.

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The Survivor Bio:

JoAnn Buttaro, founder of JoAnnSpeaksOut, is a speaker, advocate and activist for Date Rape prevention and awareness. Her blog under the same title incorporates her personal experience in a way that can help other victims heal.  JoAnn has been the subject of national true crime television programmes, told her story on radio podcast’s and is project adviser for Tell The World, a song for survivors speaking out about their sexual assault. In her spare time she volunteers as a Wish Grantor for the Make-A-Wish organisation. In 2013 she moved from New Jersey to Los Angeles for love and lives there with her boyfriend Steve.

Joann4 Rev (533x800)1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I was drugged and raped by a man I met on Match.com on our one and only date. Unbeknownst to me I was lured in by this serial date rapist who preyed upon his victims mostly through the dating website. He fabricated all the details of his life, was charming and gained my trust.

After talking over drinks for several hours that night he invited me back to his apartment and it was there he drugged my drink. I woke up about 8 hours later naked in his bed with no memory of consenting to having sex with him and feeling sick all over my body.

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

My attacker pretended the next morning that our sex was consensual so there was no reason to escape. I simply left his apartment full of shame and embarrassment. We never went out again.

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

My healing process began with telling my story to a Philadelphia SVU detective along with the support I received by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office. They stood by me throughout the trial process. I also received rape crisis counselling from WOAR (Women Organised Against Rape) located I Philadelphia. My family and friends were also there for me along the way. All these factors contributed to me healing and rebuilding my life.

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

Start by telling someone you trust and if there is no one in that position or that makes you feel uncomfortable then contact the local rape crisis center, RAINN or the Joyful Heart Foundation. It’s a long a difficult road to healing but if you stay with it you will succeed and be happy again.

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

We need to talk about it and encourage victims and survivors to talk about it. I have found that when I tell my story even to strangers that they have opened up to me about their experience with sexual violence.

It’s also very important to stress there is no shame in what happened to them and remind them it wasn’t their fault.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I like The Pixel Project’s single focused mission and message to end Violence Against Women using creative ways of engaging everyone no matter what group you are a part of be that women, men and boys in cities and countries all over the world. They have a variety of campaigns available for people to choose what’s best suited for their level of involvement. I supported this organisation as soon as I became aware of them.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: Elizabeth Halpin, 26, Canada

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 eleventh 2015 Survivor Stories interview, in partnership with When You Are Ready,  is with Elizabeth Halpin from Canada.

Trigger Warning: The first Q&A may be a distressing for some rape and sexual assault survivors. 

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The Survivor Bio:

Elizabeth Halpin is a survivor of sexual violence following an attack by an acquaintance in 2012. She has been a blogger at the When You’re Ready Project since February 2015 and has big plans for its’ future. She enjoys snowboarding, travelling, and spending time with friends and family. Her next trip is to Peru in May 2015, she is looking forward to some hiking and relaxing. Monday to Friday you can catch her managing children’s programs at several community centers, and then off to kickboxing class in the evenings! 

Elizabeth Haplin_Survivor Stories

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

I was attacked by an acquaintance. We met at a bar, and my friends pushed me to go home with him. I was not so sure so I suggested we all go for pizza before going home. Before I knew it my friends had left with my jacket and keys. I was kind of out of options so I went back to his place, hopefully just to charge my phone and then find my friends again. He had other plans. He threw me against a mirror, hit, choked, and slapped me. I kept trying to scramble away and he kept pulling me back over and over again for eight hours.

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

I had to play along and stop fighting back – it got worse the harder I fought. When he finally stopped and calmed down, I honestly prayed that he would just fall asleep so I could leave. I just waited until he fell asleep, grabbed my clothes, and snuck out. I did not sleep again for four nights, and then when I did it was because of heavy-duty sedatives.

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

I had so much therapy. One-to-one sessions, three times weekly for a while, then down to weekly, then bi-weekly. I did two rounds of group therapy at the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton, and then got to stay on for some one-to-one with one of the facilitators. This process lasted for almost two years. I still go to therapy on a maintenance basis – every two months or so.

I did a lot of yoga, it was about all of the exercise I could handle without panicking. Even then, sometimes I still panicked. Keeping busy and distracting myself was good, but I needed to take a lot of downtime. It was hard to find energy because I was in this hyper alert state for months and months. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is exhausting. Once the panic attacks died down, I was able to start getting back to the gym – weights, boot camps, and kickboxing. I have a couple guy friends who were really there for me in a way that I cannot quite explain. They were so kind and gentle, and I actually felt safe around them. They cared about me in a way that was not threatening.

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

It does not matter what you have to do to survive, just do it. No one has the right to judge you for the decisions you make before, during, or after this situation, and you just have to manage however you can.

I know it is extremely terrifying and sometimes you might wish you had died. But eventually you will climb out of the darkness. People can help you in the most unexpected ways. Share what you are ready for, when you are ready. Some people advocate talking it all out. That works for some people. Others have to keep moving, keep distracted. That is okay too. Just know that you are not alone.

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

We need to get men on board. We need men to stop attacking women and treating them like property. We need other women to be allies and stop victim-blaming. We need education from a very young age to respect people’s boundaries, to treat others with dignity and compassion. We need a better legal system for the prosecution of violent crime.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I just want to make a difference in any way I can. I spent two years going through hell and do not want that time to go to waste. I desperately want to protect my two little sisters. I like the idea that everyone has a part to play in ending violence against women, and I want to leave the earth a little safer for the children I hope to have one day.