Archive for May, 2015

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: Jill Roberts, 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 tenth 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Jill Roberts from the U.S.A. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The Survivor Bio:

I am Christian Counseling, a student, a photographer, a seamstress, a speaker, a leader and a single mother of two amazing young boys, ages 9 and 4. My passion is helping women overcome the same obstacles I walked through: abuse, depression, addiction, promiscuity and displaced identity. I can be found at New Creation Counseling. I have never been married and I grew up thinking less of myself then I should.  What I thought I lacked in looks I made up for in promiscuity. Amazingly enough by the time I acquired some self-worth, I was blessed to still be STD free. I have always been strong and independent, so I never would have imagined I would find myself being verbally, physically, emotionally and financially abused.  But that is exactly what happened nearly 6 years ago. 

IMG_0253_Edit1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence (this may include domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation etc)?

I met and fell in love with a man I thought was “the one”. I had desired a partner for so long that I overlooked all the red flags and warning signs as I was too caught up in what I thought was true love. Domestic violence and sexual abuse then crept in so slowly I that I did not see it for what it was.

It took the physical abuse of my son to open my eyes to the fact we were in danger. What he did to me, I felt like I deserved because he had programmed me to think that way. Had it been just me, I do not know if I would have left.  I craved love so much that I disregarded all the warning signs and clung to a toxic relationship for too long. Fear for my unborn child’s life gave me the courage to break free.

Today, nearly 5 years later, I am completely free and the happiest I have ever been!

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

My road to freedom started with a conversation with a co-worker where I finally talked about all the things that were happening. Until then I thought I could not tell anyone because ‘they just wouldn’t understand’. There was always justification for every wrong action or touch. “You brought it on yourself” was the lie we were fed.

After I disclosed to a co-worker, she told me the situation sounded bad and suggested I talk to the local woman’s shelter.  I called and after a few questions I was advised we were in a dangerous situation. I was told that I should get my son and myself away immediately and involve CPS, which I did. It was scary. Looking back now, I know most, if not all, of what he threatened to do if we left him were just lies. Because he felt powerless he needed to control us.

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

My healing came from a number of different places. Initially it was group and individual counselling at the woman’s shelter. The validation and understanding I received from other survivors was amazing: I learned that I was not alone; I was not crazy; and it was the abuser who was not OK – he had hurt me in numerous very real ways. I made friends I still have to this day.

Other things that helped me heal were taking the time to find out who I was. What did I like to do? What brought me joy and laughter? I made time to pamper myself even if it was just a bubble bath and a DIY manicure. I found I love to read and to write, so I do each as often as I can.

Sharing my story is another big way I heal. If the pain of my past can help someone else who is hurting then it was not all in vain.

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

My suggestion to anyone in a toxic relationship is to reach out to people you care about. Talk about what is happening. Do not isolate yourself. You are not alone. There are people in this world that care about you. Some you know; others are strangers. There is a way, even if you do not see it yet. There is hope for a better future. You can love someone and still set boundaries to protect yourself from being hurt. You can forgive, but trust is earned. Love is patient and kind, not hot tempered or mean. I am not saying you should never disagree – it is how you resolve conflict that matters. Respect is something every human deserves, especially from the one who claims to love them the most.

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

I think ending violence against women starts in how we raise our children. Both boys and girls need to be encouraged to be themselves and celebrated for who they are. Hurting people hurt people. The men that abuse do so because there is something broken inside of them.  If we can heal our boys, they will grow into confident men who will honour women instead of degrading them. The media tells young girls they need to look a certain way and use their bodies to gain the attention of young men; when they need to be taught that who they are is to be treasured. Let us embrace our children’s individuality and guide them on a journey to know their self-worth.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because awareness is the key. Silence is the essential to abuse. Darkness cannot hide in the light. When we bring these issues of abuse to the light, not only do we provide a platform for people to share their stories, we encourage those still struggling to see there is another way. Freedom is possible but it comes at a price. Sometimes you have to let go of someone you love to find the path to your own freedom. It can be done. You are not alone. There may be pain in the night but joy comes in the morning!

SURVIVOR STORIES 2015: Adira Dalia Ghazi, 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 ninth 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Adira Dalia Ghazali 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 a mother of five beautiful “suns” and I spell it that way because they are lights in my world and allow me to understand what everything in this life has been for. I was in an abusive relationship for enough years, starting from when I was 15 years old. I eventually left that situation and part of what empowered me to do that was my boys or my suns because I knew that I didn’t bring them into this world just to have them live a life of pain and turmoil. I now have written a book and started 3.9destiny. Both are tools for me to teach, inspire, motivate, encourage other women, some men, and children. I mostly speak to children and women about self-love and the rejection of abuse at the hands of others, but mostly themselves. I also work at a juvenile detention to help shed a little light and knowledge to the youth I interact with there. Love and Light.

Adira Dahlia 1_cropped1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I have experienced years of domestic violence as I was in an abusive relationship with my ex-husband for many years.

It started when we were dating and I was 15, starting with emotional that grew into physical abuse. He was 7 years older than me and I thought that the intense way he wanted me all to himself was normal and was love. His ‘love’ later involved kicking me with steel-toe boots on, dragging my pregnant body across the snow-covered ground, being slapped in front of his family, and constant degrading speech and behaviour.
2. How did you escape the violent situation/relationship/ritual?

I escaped in a way that is very “divine intervention”. The story is very detailed and specific. A lot of things need to be shared to make the beautiful point of the way I was released from his chains.

It happened on Christmas Eve and I’ll never forget it. I was getting prepared to leave for a church service to which I was taking the two older boys of mine, both aged four at the time. I had cooked and cleaned already (because I knew I had to do that because he had a way of starting a fight/argument for anything right before I left, so I always tried to not “release the beast” so to speak). I was stepping out the door and the very cast iron skillet I had used to prepare chicken for his meal was the very object he swung towards my head.

At that point I knew I had to make a choice of death or survival. It was like I saw myself leaving this realm in the matter of seconds. So I left with my two boys and called the police to get the others. So many angelic things took place that night to aid me in my leaving. The cry out I made the night before to be rescued/released from this bondage of a marriage, the Special Needs lady who let me use her phone to call for help, and the strength I used to call the police to get my other boys.

In all the years of abuse I had never once called them until that very night. It was a beautiful, bright night even though it took place on a snowy cold night in December.

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

Actually I healed through writing, journaling, and poetry. I wrote often through tears and pain, which resulted in a small book entitled Leaping from Yesterday into the Arms of Tomorrow: Goodbye Yesterday.

Basically my writings were how I expressed my pain and questions out which resulted in healing for me. Every time I remembered something that brought up pain or discomfort, I wrote. Any time I watched my children have an episode that was triggered by a painful memory, I wrote an entry in my journal. I never stopped writing and reminding myself to bring a sense of closeness, healing, and possible strength to others.

So to really answer the question, the healing process for me was not necessarily through talking to other people, but through being honest with myself in my writings and that brought healing. I rebuilt my life by positive affirmations to myself that I was worthy of love. That love had to come from me first and foremost before I was able to accept love and affection from others.

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

I would suggest learning what “healthy love” is and to also self-affirm that they are beautiful, worthy, and capable of having true love in every sense of the word. I would also help to explain the beauty of trusting your ‘first mind’. I now work with troubled youth at a juvenile center and I constantly speak to the boys and the girls especially about waiting before entering a relationship because it comes with much more than they think. I speak to them about self-preservation. When you invite certain toxic elements into your life, mind, and heart you open the floodgates for certain detrimental things to come into them.

There’s so much to share because of my life experiences. I always say that my situation may not be as “horrific” as another but one hit, one scary yell, or one slap is enough and too much. We are beautiful vessels that should be treated as such. We should know and understand our magnificence and worth.

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

Knowledge is key – the knowledge of one’s self, worth, and excellence. Without that we all fail. If someone knows what they are worth, they won’t allow certain things to happen in their lives. I truly believe that. If I knew, and not just heard, that I was wonderful, beautiful, and worthy of being treated like a human being and not the scum on the bottom of a shoe, I probably wouldn’t have allowed any person to treat me that way. If I would’ve known that I was to be respected, cherished, and honoured as a woman then I probably would’ve demanded to be. I also believe that we need to speak up more about how we are treated at home, at work, and in so many other places. The abuse and double standards are perpetuated in so many other places besides the home that we have begun to just accept the behavior as “normal” because it’s everywhere.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because it gives platforms like this campaign to so many people who need to be heard. We live in a time that everything is done, said, read, and heard on the Internet. These types of tools allow women to be heard and their stories to be seen.

Secondly it allows those who may not be aware of the many stories surrounding them to have their eyes to be opened, their hearts to be touched and hopefully help them have a yearning to aid in some matter.

Thirdly, it may help someone who may have been on their way towards walking in the footsteps of the women in the stories that they read to choose a different direction. So for that I am grateful and highly supportive of organisations such as The Pixel Project.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: Courtney Weaver, 28, 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 eighth 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Courtney Weaver from the U.S.A.

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

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The Survivor Bio:

In the year of 2009, when I was 22, I sang at over 95 musical performances and 5 Blues Festivals in Humboldt County, establishing myself as the resident Blues belter. Just as my career was beginning to take off I was derailed when I was shot in the face and arm by my abusive boyfriend on January 15th 2010 in Arcata, CA. After moving back to my hometown of Seattle in January 2011 and 13 reconstructive surgeries later I am finally healed and have successfully rehabilitated my life and voice as a passionate advocate for domestic violence.

Courtney Weaver 21. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

In 2009 I was a 22-year-old singer living my dream as a professional Blues vocalist.   I performed at 5 music festivals and had 97 gigs under my belt as the resident blues chanteuse of Northern California.  I’d set my sights on making 2010 a milestone year for my career.

Instead, my life took an unexpected turn on January 15th, 2010 when I was shot point-blank in the face through my arm by my abusive boyfriend in my own kitchen. Since that night, I’ve had 13 reconstructive surgeries and hundreds of doctor’s appointments. But, I’m not a victim. I’m a survivor. Rather than let this experience break me, I have raised my voice in a call for action, fighting the culture of silence that hides domestic violence.

My dream as a vocalist, survivor, and storyteller is to elevate and raise awareness about domestic violence by sharing this shamefully all-American love story, to change our culture’s dialogue and bring to attention the dissonant and often fatal duet of love and violence.

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

I had tried to block my boyfriend from leaving moments after I had said I couldn’t be with him, I was afraid he was going to go on a shooting spree after he had killed my cat who attacked him when he was loading his Kimber .45 handgun. I was shot point blank in the face through my right arm when I covered my ears and crouched as he fired his gun five times in my kitchen.

Moments after, he looked at me and ran out the kitchen door shooting his gun up the street. I jumped up and ran into my living room and grabbed my purse realising I had been shot in the arm as I extended it to grab my purse. As I ran through my foyer and screamed for help, I realised I’d been shot in the face as blood, teeth, and bodily tissue spilled out of my mouth and down my neck. I ran to 3 different neighbour’s houses before I received help.

Meanwhile Kenneth, my shooter, was attempting suicide but was eventually subdued and arrested after assaulting a police officer. When asked why he did it by the responding officers he told them it was an “abortion murder.”

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

Yoga, music, and advocacy.

Yoga to me is the capacity and willingness to adapt to a constantly changing situation. Yoga allowed me to reclaim my body and my boundaries.

Singing, my preferred medium, allows me to articulate my feelings and express this adaptation using music as the catalyst. Music has long been a healing balm for those who have survived great pain and suffering. More often than not, violence happens at the hands of a loved one. Music has the power to unite a diverse swath of people and incite social justice.

I began speaking out days after the shooting and speaking at various events soon after my release. In addition to my public speaking, I also testified on multiple domestic violence bills, notably HB 1840 for 3 years and the I-594 campaign, the first ballot initiative for background checks in the country. I also volunteer on the WSCADV fatality review.

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

I would tell a woman in a similar situation to not be afraid to reach out and ask for help. I would tell her that it is not her fault and no one deserves to be treated poorly by someone who claims to love you. I would tell her to call a domestic violence hotline even if she doesn’t believe she is in immediate danger. I would tell her I support her no matter what because she is probably already very isolated. I would tell her that she is not responsible for her partner’s behavior.

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

When the media is covering violence against women I think they should shift over into focusing the attention on the survivor in a positive light. I think preventative education and intervention coupled with the study of violence would be the way to go.  The tracking of violence is of particular interest to me personally. Collecting and analysing this data has been fascinating and illuminating for me. I’m interested in determining ways lawmakers, advocates, and the community can utilise this data to strengthen laws that impact the dangerous implications that arise when guns are accessible to domestic abusers

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because I believe it is incredibly important to get men involved, as someone who has shared my story to many different audiences as a survivor I have noticed that men, especially abusive men tend to listen to other men more than to a woman. Social media has been an amazing tool for not only starting the conversation, but also elevating the voice of many survivors like myself who had been silenced by the abusive male powers that be until the advent of social media gave us a platform to raise our voices.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: Twahna P. Harris, 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 seventh 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Twahna P. Harris from the U.S.A.

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The Survivor Bio:

Twahna P Harris is the Executive Director of The Butterfly Society, a nonprofit domestic violence organization. The organization was given life through her own personal journey as a victim and survivor. She is a public speaker, mentor, advocate, wife, mother and a woman of God.  She is recognised on a local and state level for the work she does with victims and survivors. She empowers victims and survivors to TAKE BACK their lives because there is LIFE after domestic violence. She is living proof. She stands strong. “Like a butterfly, I have been reborn with bold colors and strong wings”   Johnathan Lockwood Haie. Her hobbies are meditation time, volunteering in the community, exercising, and writing.

Twahna P Harris CroppedCom1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

My personal experience is with domestic violence, and it has been a journey.

I was a student when I met this guy  handsome, said all the right things, had a great job and drove a really nice car — who swept me off of my feet. We went on a couple of dates and decided to become a couple. When we moved in together everything changed. He was like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I was physically, mentally, emotionally, and sexually abused. I quit going to class because I was embarrassed and I didn’t want to have to answer the hard questions. My grades suffered tremendously. I flunked out of school.  My mind wasn’t there anymore.

I left several times but I went back because I felt guilty for leaving him. He threatened to kill me if I ever left again. I saw myself in a dream dying at his hands. I was in a very dark place in my life (depressed). One day, I picked up the phone  made a call to the local Battered Women Shelter. The lady that answered the call was very kind, caring, and welcoming. I told her that he threatened to kill me but I wasn’t ready to leave. Her words to me were: “If he tells you he is going to kill you then he will do just that”. She told me I needed to get a safety  plan in place for when I decided to leave.

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

The safety plan came into play the next day after I had a conversation with God the night before. I asked Him to remove me from the situation. I made a commitment to Him to never allow another man to treat that way again, to never move in with another man unless he was my husband, and I would use my voice to help education others about domestic violence.

The next day I got dress for work like a normal day. Gave him a kiss goodbye, told him to have a great day. When I left, I hid behind an abandoned building and watched him leave. Then I went back to the apartment and took everything I could possibly take. What I couldn’t take I left behind. I NEVER went back. That chapter of my life had been written. It was time to start on a new chapter.

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

I remembered I had dreams and goals that I had to accomplish for myself. Nothing was going to stop me.

I met a great man who believed in me, supported me and loved me unconditionally. I enrolled in a Community College (BRCC) to get reengaged with school again. I had a great support system (my professors) who believed in me and wanted me to achieve success. I graduated from Baton Rouge Community College in May 2003 and enrolled at Southern University where it all began. I had an awesome support system there as well. The professors encouraged me every step of the way and I graduated from Southern University Summer 2008.

I did a lot of writing in a daily journal that helped me to heal as well. I gained strength daily through Bible verses, poems, quotes, newspapers etc. I found myself sharing my story many times in small settings.

I had also shared my story with my sorority sisters. They were in total disbelief. I made it perfectly clear to them that domestic violence didn’t have a certain face. My sorority hosted a Domestic Violence Forum and I was asked to be a guest speaker. I hesitated because I had never shared my story to a public audience before. I told them I had to pray about it. A small voice within (God) reminded me of the commitment I had made to Him. That night I shared my story to an audience of a 100 young ladies. I was so, so nervous. At the end of the programme, I was standing in the back of the room when 5 young ladies came up to me to thank me for sharing my story. They were in domestic violence situations themselves or they knew someone who was. They were eager to share the information they had received. I knew then that my story was no longer mine but for someone else to help save a life and I have been doing the work of an advocate ever since.

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

The very first thing I would share with the victim is that you are not to blame and you are not the problem. God created you with life, value, and purpose. You don’t have to go through this alone. Let someone know what you are going through a friend, family member, co-worker, or a domestic violence shelter. There is a voice in all of us. Find yours. It’s there. You will be told to leave many times but it’s when you have a safety plan in place that you do get ready to leave. I call it “WHEN THE LIGHT COMES ON.” “THERE IS LIFE AFTER DOMESTC VIOLENCE.” I’m living proof….

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

We can end domestic violence through education, outreach, advocacy, support group and partnerships etc. We also have to make domestic violence a part of our conversation just like any other issue that’s a crisis. That way people are always reminder that domestic violence is real. Everyone has to be included in the movement law enforcement, churches, the school system, judges, health care services, communities, business leaders, advocates, survivors etc.

NO MORE SILENCE! WE WILL END DOMESTIC VIOLENCE!

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

The Pixel Project is a great nonprofit proving opportunities for victims or survivors to share their stories as a way of healing, a way to empower, a way to inspire, and a new way to live life. We need more projects of this magnitude in place. This is a way that victims and survivors can build a community of support for one another. It is a great resource as well. I thank you for the opportunity for allowing me to share my story with you. I hope and pray that it will be empowering for others.

ANNOUNCEMENT: THE MUSIC FOR PIXELS SUMMER CHARITY CONCERT

m4p-summer-charity-concert2015-slide (3)May 6th 2015, WORLDWIDE: The Pixel Project, the virtual volunteer-led 501(c)3 non-profit working to end Violence Against Women (VAW) worldwide, will be presenting their first ever Music For Pixels Summer Charity Concert to kick off summer 2015. This concert is a live-streaming 12-hour positive music marathon on Google Hangout featuring 23 artists from 5 countries (Barbados, Canada, Sweden, the UK and the USA) saying NO to VAW with their music and helping raise funds for the cause.

The concert will run non-stop from 10am EST – 10pm EST on June 6th 2015 and will be divided into 6 two-hour sessions that will run consecutively. Each session will feature 4 artists performing a set of their songs and talking about why they support ending violence against women. Each artiste’s slot also includes a moderated Q&A session for artists’ fans and music lovers to ask them questions live.

The Music For Pixels concert is part of The Pixel Project’s Music For Pixels program in support of the Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign. The Pixel Reveal campaign aims to raise US$1 million in aid of the U.S.’s National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and The Pixel Project by inspiring the global audience to collectively reveal a million-pixel collage of mystery Celebrity Male Role Model portraits online by donating US$1 per pixel. The distinguished line-up of mystery Celebrity Male Role Models includes a Nobel Laureate, a Pulitzer Prize Winner, and a superstar Environmentalist.

Participating artists have generously donated a range of exclusive musical goodies to encourage music fans to donate to the Pixel Reveal campaign including: 1-to-1 Skype concerts with artists, autographed CDs and EPs, and more. In addition, Grammy Award winner Colbie Caillat has donated an autographed ukulele that will be available as a thank you gift for one generous donor. Donations begin at as little as US$5 and the goodies are available to donors as “thank you” perks depending on the donation amount. Fundraising will take place throughout the month of June on Indiegogo in tandem with the concert .

Regina Yau, Founder and President of The Pixel Project, said: “This is the first time that a 12-hour charity concert has ever been held on Google Hangout with artists performing songs with themes including women’s empowerment, compassion, love, and courage. Through the music, and also the concert hashtag #GetNoisy, we hope that the concert will not only inspire legions of music fans to rise up and speak out against violence against women in their communities, but also take action in their communities and give generously to the Pixel Reveal campaign. We look forward to doing so with the support of our YouTube Music Ambassador, AHMIR; and our music partner, the Positive Music Association.”

Scott Johnson, Founder and Executive Director of the Positive Music Association (PMA) said: “Empowering women and treating them with kindness and respect is critical in creating healthy societies. What better way to raise awareness of this global issue than through the international language of music? The PMA is proud to be a part of The Pixel Project’s Music For Pixels Summer Marathon Concert.”

AHMIR, The Pixel Project’s long-time YouTube Ambassador who will be kicking off the concert with a special 45-minute performance and chat session, said: “This is really an exciting experience for us. To know that we are joining 22 other artists, both from the U.S. and abroad, to unite for a 12-hour concert that can be viewed anywhere in the world to support a message we feel so strongly about is awesome. This is how you make a difference.”

This year’s Music For Pixels artists performing at the concert are: AHMIR, Adam Web, Alexis Umathum, Bob Sima, Carolan Deacon, Cecilia St. King, Debbie Reifer, Eva Universe, Haley Blais, Hannah Wondmeneh, Harold Payne, Jake Roque, Jana Stanfield, Juliet Weybret, Katie Sky, Lauren Ruth Ward, L. Young, Mary Scholz, Miguel Dakota, Nathen Aswell, Olivia Thai, Rochelle Diamante, and ULRIKA.

 

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For information about the concert, please visit: http://is.gd/GetNoisy2015

For further queries about the concert, contact Regina Yau or Maria del Rio: info@thepixelproject.net

Pixel Project ThumbnailAbout The Pixel Project (www.thepixelproject.net)

The Pixel Project is a complete virtual, volunteer-led global 501(c)3 nonprofit organisation whose mission is to raise awareness, funds and volunteer power for the cause to end violence against women using the power of the internet and pop culture/the arts. Their flagship initiative is the Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign which aims to turbo-charge global awareness about VAW using social media while raising US$1 million by getting a global audience to collectively unveil a million-pixel mystery collage of Celebrity Male Role Models at US$1 per pixel.

 

Music For Pixels ThumbnailAbout Music For Pixels (http://music4pixels.thepixelproject.net)

Music For Pixels, a campaign by The Pixel Project, is the first music-based social media campaign to exclusively collaborate with YouTube artists and rising stars speaking up to prevent and stop Violence Against Women through music video PSAs and online music events while raising funds for the cause via digital music downloads and music-driven crowdfunding campaigns

 

 

New PMA logoAbout the Positive Music Association (http://www.PositiveMusicAssociation.com)

The Positive Music Association is an international organisation dedicated to promoting Positive music and those who create it. Positive music is defined as lyric-based songs with universal, life-affirming messages. Positive music can inspire, heal, uplift, empower, energize, unite and enlighten. It is used to help create and awaken people to a more peaceful, sustainable and healthy world that works for everyone. Founded in 2003, the PMA has over 375 members in 12 countries. For more information, contact Scott@PositiveMusicAssociation.com.

 

About AHMIR (www.youtube.com/ahmirTV)  

AHMIR_YouTube_LogoFeatured on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Us Weekly, FUSE, and Billboard, AHMIR is the #1 Most Popular R&B Group on YouTube with over 75 million video views and comments by celebrities such as Ryan Seacrest, Ashton Kutcher, Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, and more. Yahoo! listed them as the “Top 5 YouTube Cover Artists:  The Best Acts You Should Be Listening To Today.” The group has used their success to support several charity organizations including The Pixel Project, Lucy’s Love Bus, and the American Cancer Society. Their cover video of P!nk’s “Perfect” was named one of the top Anti-Bullying PSA’s by The Huffington Post. AHMIR is signed to Robbins Entertainment and have recently released their debut single entitled “WAR” to Top 40 radio nationwide.

SURVIVOR STORIES 2015: Kristen Paruginog, 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 sixth 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Kristen Paruginog 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:

Kristen Paruginog is a domestic violence survivor, speaker, advocate, social media guru, blogger, former national and local pageant titleholder, and international spokesperson for the non-profit organization, Break the Silence against Domestic Violence. Kristen has a passion for community service involvement and also enjoys entertaining audiences through the art of Polynesian dance. Beyond her advocacy work, she loves animals – especially her two pit bulls, Kiko and Tojo.

Kristen Paruginog_croppedcom1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

Over the course of our 3-year relationship, he bit me in the face, locked me in rooms, suffocated me with a pillow, restrained me, constantly called me names, demeaned me and used threats to control me. He forced me to have sex with him on many occasions, threw me to the ground on many occasions, pulled my hair, spit in my face, kidnapped me, and held me against my will.

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

The last incident which woke me up to break away happened on October 2, 2011. I was lying down on the bed and he bit my arm. I told him to stop, but he would not. It became red immediately, the next day it was bruised and swollen. Seeing my bruised arm made me realise that if I stayed my life would only continue spiraling out of control.

What helped me stay accountable and not go back was learning to love myself and telling my mom.

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

After finally leaving that destructive relationship, I realised I wasn’t alone and other men and women were suffering like I was. I was committed to bettering myself because I didn’t want to fall back into another horrendous relationship. I needed to learn how to love and respect myself again!

I began sharing my story which helped me gain my confidence back, and it gave me my purpose in life. When I share my story, I know at least one person will relate to it – by that one connection that person then learns they are not alone and that we can do this together. Attending conferences, retreats, trainings, and women empowerment groups with other survivors truly helped me.

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

I share my story with the world and am doing it for those who still live in fear and for our angels who have been taken from us because of acts of violence. If you are in an abusive relationship – believe me when I say, “THERE IS A WAY OUT!”

There are resources, there are phone numbers to call, there are programmes you can take advantage of to help you get back on your feet. And there is an organisation that will give you your happiness back – it’s called Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence.

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

I am a firm believer that we have the power as supporters and survivors of domestic violence to end domestic violence. If we are educated, empowered, and learn to respect one another we have the tools to lead us in the right direction. In order to combat domestic violence, we need men to stand up against violence alongside women and together we can end this epidemic.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because the organisation shines a global light on violence against women. In many countries worldwide, women are suffering at the hands of their abusers. The Pixel Project uses visuals and social media to captivate the world and draws people in to learn about the atrocities our world faces – this is what young people need. I stand with the Pixel Project because we are committed to ending the violence!

SURVIVOR STORIES 2015: Jessica Hawkinson, 17, 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 fifth 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Jessica Hawkinson from the U.S.A.

TRIGGER WARNING: The first two Q&As in this interview may be distressing for some domestic violence and rape survivors.

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The Survivor Bio:

Jessica Hawkinson is going to Clarkson University to fulfil her goal of majoring in psychology and journalism.  She spends a lot of time writing papers on Rape Culture and making YouTube videos on the ideology of Rape Culture existing in today’s society. She talks to people who have gone through similar experiences and help as much as she can. She has created a website called Help Find Your Voice to help others get the help they need, while sharing their experiences to help others come forward and find strength in their voices together.  She is also very active in sports, playing both ice hockey and lacrosse and loves hiking with her friends. 

senior pic1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I was dating a guy for what ended up being a total of 9 months but after the first two, he started to be controlling and demanding. He manipulated me in a way that made me feel as though I was the one hurting him (for example, he said he would kill himself if I left him).

Eventually, his actions grew to the point of threatening and eventually raping me. He controlled me to the point that when he did sexually assault me in public and when others asked, I would say that he did it all the time and that it did not bother me, even though it hurt me more and more each time.

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

I ended up moving to a different state for boarding school. It was not the kind of relationship that he wanted so we ended things within 2 weeks.

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

To be honest, it took me a while. However, I finally confided in a friend of mine who pushed me to speak up and talk to the school psychologist that we had on campus. I was very uncomfortable talking about it but he helped me get to where I was able to say what needed to be said. I learned to trust again and felt comfortable in more social situations as the talking continued. I learned that a wonderful way to help myself get over my experience was to help others and advocate for domestic violence and the rape victims who cannot speak up.

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

Tell someone. I know that it seems like the hardest thing in the world right now, but it helps so much in the long run. Sharing your experience, how it made you feel, how it still makes you feel, helps you move on and learn to live your life for yourself again.

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

It won’t be an easy thing to do, but first and foremost, people need to stop blaming the victims. I don’t care if they were drunk or if they were wearing some skimpy outfit, it WAS NOT and NEVER WILL BE their fault. We need to come together as an organisation, as a community, as the entire world, and speak up about the truth of this. The people who refuse to believe that these kinds of things happen to thousands of women a year need to become aware of what is really happening in our world. And those who are doing these to us need to know that they aren’t going to get away with it – that they WILL face the consequences for their actions and that they aren’t going to win over these women. This is our life and we will take it back.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because if the allowing those who have been victims to speak up and share their story so that we can help others who are going through these situations get through them. You cannot do this alone, but as a group of women (and men) coming together and being there for each other, we  can ensure that no one will ever go through this alone and that we will all come out stronger.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: Lauren Reid, 30, 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 fourth 2015 Survivor Stories interview, in partnership with When You Are Ready,  is with Lauren Reid from Canada. 

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The Survivor Bio:

Lauren Reid is the founder of the When You’re Ready Project, an online community for survivors of sexual violence to share their stories and connect with one another. Since launching the Project in December 2014, she has discovered a new passion for activism and a source for healing in her connections with other survivors. Lauren travels frequently for her “day job” as a data privacy software director, but when she’s home in Toronto she is usually either curled up with her dog and a good book, or in the yoga studio. Originally from Oregon, she has lived in Montana, San Francisco, Amsterdam, London, and Toronto, and continues to enjoy traveling all over the world. Her most recent adventure was to India, and her favourite cities (so far) are Florence, Istanbul, and Oviedo, Spain.


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

I was raped three times, and all three times by men I knew and trusted. The first time was in high school, I had been drinking and an older boy – the brother of a friend – attacked me at a party. Afterwards, everyone called me a slut. I went to college at the University of Montana, where a few years later it happened again – this time, at a fraternity. I was devastated to learn that my boyfriend at the time had given his friend permission to rape me. Just two years later, someone else from the same fraternity drugged me and raped me in my own bed.

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

I didn’t really “escape” the situation until almost 15 years later. Each time I was raped, it happened very quickly and even though I tried to get away I couldn’t. Afterwards, I was too ashamed to do anything but lie there and cry – I wanted to hide and never come out. For over a decade I suffered in silence, keeping it a secret and trying to ignore the effect it was having on my life. It wasn’t until recently, when I broke my silence, that I truly felt free from the events.

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

Writing has always been an outlet for me and continues to be. Also – I tend to keep moving. I moved from Montana to San Francisco where I dedicated myself to volunteering. I spent my time trying to help others to ease my guilt and curb the self-loathing.

Next, I found my passion for travel – I moved to Amsterdam and spent a few years traveling around Europe and finally opening up to other people I met during my time there.

Finally, I moved to Toronto where I discovered Yoga which helped me love and respect my body again. But what truly helped me heal was founding the When You’re Ready Project and becoming an activist, connecting with other survivors and finally beginning to explore the emotions I’d hidden away for so many years.

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

Talk about it, write about it – find a way to get it out. Our brains process trauma in mysterious ways – so many that science doesn’t even yet understand – but many survivors report feeling alone, scared, blaming themselves, or distorting or suppressing the memories. I did all of those things; and still suffer from many symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Even if you’re not ready to report to law enforcement, find someone to talk to. You will be astonished by how many women who have experienced the same thing.

When I finally shared my story, I learned that some of my best friends had been suffering too – we were right next to one another and hurting but couldn’t bring ourselves to talk about it. My real healing began when I wrote my story and read it back the first time. Since then it has been a roller coaster but all leading toward me finding peace with what happened to me.

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

Some people still deny that violence against women is an issue – they rationalise their ignorance by questioning the limited statistics available on its prevalence, by attacking the studies that point to a problem.

The real problem is that we still have to conduct studies and surveys in order to get information because women aren’t safe coming forward. We have to make it safe for women by believing them and supporting them, by ending the stigma, and putting a stop to victim blaming. We do that by talking, talking, talking – bringing the issue out of the shadows and into the light. Only once we have collectively acknowledged the problem can we try to solve it.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because this group is taking on a massive issue. I get overwhelmed just thinking about my own experience and those of the women I know; but The Pixel Project tackles all forms of violence against women all over the globe. It breaks my heart to think about how women around the world are being mistreated but it lifts my spirits to think about the dedicated work that The Pixel Project and others like it are doing.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: Jenna de la Cruz, 24, 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 third 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Jenna de la Cruz 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 Jenna de la Cruz. I am a 24-year-old woman who has 3 beautiful children. I am a writer, dreamer, and survivor of Domestic Violence. I am strong, worthy, and independent. I enjoy playing with my children at the park and sleeping in on Saturday mornings. I believe that by sharing my story with others I have the power to let other women know that it is possible to overcome any obstacle. 

Jenna De La Cruz1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I am a survivor of Domestic Violence. I met my abuser at 19 years old. I was already a single mother to my 2 year old daughter at the time. After moving into together things quickly changed. Little by little he began to isolate me from my family and friends. Soon after finding out I was pregnant with his child the physical abuse began. Shoves became slaps and, soon, full on punches. I had never been more ashamed. I felt like nobody in my family would understand. Pregnant with his child, I was determined to try and make things better, to make our new family unit work.

Despite my efforts the abuse only continued to escalate. I was continually belittled and beaten in front of my young daughter. My son was born at 28 weeks weighing just 2 pounds. No matter how bad it got I couldn’t find the strength to leave even after having a gun pointed at me for hours while he tormented me and eventually shot our family dog.

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

It wasn’t until I became pregnant with my third child that I found the strength and courage to leave. Starting over with my two young children and one on the way at the age of 21 was the scariest decision I had ever made. One week after Christmas I called my sister and asked her for her help. I packed my car with my children and our most important belongings and backed out of the driveway and never looked back. My sister and her husband were gracious enough to give me and my children a safe place to live until I gave birth to a healthy and beautiful baby girl in April of 2012.

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

It took a lot of time and patience with myself to heal after leaving my abuser. I was diagnosed with PTSD and depression. I struggled with low self-esteem and guilt. I had a hard time reminding myself that I no longer needed to stare at the ground when people spoke to me.

I went back to work to support my children and slowly my confidence returned. Over the past few years I have been promoted multiple times. I also surrounded myself with positive and encouraging people and found a wonderful support system. I began to share my story with others and attended local Domestic Violence events and conferences. I have connected with survivors of Domestic Violence all over the country which taught me that I am not alone. I am a strong beautiful woman with a story that I will forever use to help other women.

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

I was you. I know how it feels to live in constant fear and not know how to make it stop. I know how isolated you feel but you are not alone. There are so many people, strangers even, that will love and support you in your journey towards the life of happiness and safety that you deserve. The abuse you are enduring is not your fault – it never has been. The lies that your abuser tells you is only to keep you down so that they can remain in control.

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

I truly believe that the only way to end violence against women is through prevention and education. I started a community group in my state called Unharmed Hearts to educate teens and young adults about dating violence in an effort to prevent Domestic Violence. I believe that if we can reach teens, both male and female, while they are forming their first relationships we can teach them that violence against women is not acceptable.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project in their mission to end violence against women because I believe that no woman should ever have to endure the hell I lived through. The Pixel Project is unique because it utilises technology to connect supporters from around the world to prove that together we can stop violence against women.

SURVIVOR STORIES 2015: Julie Medina, 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 second 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Julie Medina from the U.S.A.

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:

Julie L. Medina, J.D, is a prosecuting attorney specialising in the prosecution of domestic violence and sexual assault cases.  She is a graduate from Creighton University School of Law where she received the “Outstanding Service to the Law School” award for her Speak Out programme, which educates students on sexual assault and domestic violence.  During her programme, she shares her own personal story as a 16-year rape survivor which happened at the hands of one of her male bosses while she was at work.  Since 2007, her program has reached over 17,000 students.  Julie also works throughout the community training and educating professionals, and has received multiple community awards in recognition for her continued work and advocacy to end violence against women.

Julie Medina_cropped1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I was raped on December 11, 1997 by one of my bosses.  At the time I was working as the Administrative Assistant at a major paint corporation for several of the sales managers including this individual.  My rapist had worked for the company for over 25 years and had sexually harassed woman for years.  The women in the company had complained for years. Many quit but the company did nothing about it.

Within a week of my starting with the company he began his pattern of abuse.  He would come up behind me, touch me, touch intimate areas, rub my neck, and trap me in closets, copier rooms, anywhere that would allow him to do his touching.  He made it so we were alone in the building without my knowledge on December 11, 1997, and raped me.  It was 25 of the worst, most terrifying minutes of my life.  I was strangled during part of it, he cut part of my hair with a letter opener, he threatened to kill me, to find me and do it again and warned me how no one would believe me over him.   He forced me to look at him the entire time and if I looked away he would physically force me to look at him.  Power, control, humiliation is all this crime is about and that was clear in what he did and how he did it.

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

I forgot my rape for almost 2 years but had every symptom of PTSD and Rape Trauma Syndrome.  I continued to work for the company and he continued to escalate the harassment.  The four of us women in the sales office finally decided to complain one more time to management. The company protected him and fired us.

In the investigation of the harassment when I had to tell all the harassment over and over I found I began to have flashbacks of the rape.  This would lead me to where I had hidden my clothes that night and a journal I kept.  When I found those items, it sent most of the memories of the rape flooding back.  I had evidence on the clothes but by then it was too late to prosecute since the Statute of Limitations had expired.

We hired a lawyer who fought for us and eventually my rapist was let go from the company.  He then stalked me horribly for almost a year including breaking into my apartment and leaving the hair he cut that night on my bedroom pillow.  I moved, but he followed me.  I moved again, and this time was able to escape from him and was able to go back to school for my law degree.

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

It was hard at first because he was stalking me and I suffered from PTSD, flashbacks, horrible panic attacks and anxiety.  I had a dream to become a prosecutor so I found that strength within myself and I went back to college, got my degree, went to law school and became a prosecutor specialising in prosecuting crimes of domestic violence and sexual assault.  I could not put him away in jail so now I fight to put away those who commit these crimes and bring justice for victims.  I also found my voice and began speaking about my experience to whoever would listen.

Initially, I tried counselling but it did not work for me.  What did work for me was talking to other survivors and sharing my experience and meditation and relaxation techniques for the anxiety.  I focused on the strength I had found within myself to continue to heal.  In the past year, because of speaking so much about the rape, the remaining, most violent parts of it have come back to me.  This time though, I knew what I needed to do to handle it.  I confided in trusted friends and fellow survivors and for the first time I truly found the strength in myself to ask for help and again tried therapy.  This time I found an amazing therapist who has helped me and continues to help me heal and move on from this experience.

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

You absolutely can survive this!  What happened to you is part of your life experience but it does not define the amazing person that you are.  Recovery is your journey, your road, and know that there is no timeline for it.  You can have a few bumps and “roundabouts” in that road.  These are not “setbacks” but just a small detour in that road.  We all have them but then we get back on that road.  Just know that you are not alone and you are “normal”.

There are so many members in this club who understand and who are walking that road beside you.   Remember what happened was not your fault.  We all have obstacles in our lives, it is how we deal with those obstacles that defines us.   This experience will show you that you can do anything you want to do, that you are stronger than you ever thought possible.  Dream your dreams and go grab them and make them a reality!  Live your life, do not ‘just exist’.  You have come this far, anything is possible!

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

Education, education and more education!  I developed a programme called “Speak Out” where I go into the area middle school, high schools and colleges with a co-presenter who is a domestic violence survivor to educate students about domestic violence and sexual assault.  What I have found is that this rape culture has already infested children at ages as young as 10.  We need to send the message to stop blaming the victim and to put the blame on the perpetrator where it belongs.  Many of these young men also are never taught boundaries, respect, and what consent really is.  If we begin to get society talking about these crimes, to not to be embarrassed about these issues but rather to talk about it, we could stop so many of the myths and misconceptions surrounding these crimes.   Ending the myths would help others see these crimes for what they are – crimes of power, control, humiliation where the fault is the perpetrators and the predators alone.  We can then stand together and make these individuals accountable through changes in laws and penalties for committing these crimes.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

The Pixel Project’s mission is the same as my own:  to educate and get people talking about violence against woman.  Even in 2015, we as a society are so afraid to talk about these issues.  As I stated above, the key to ending violence is education of all society but especially our young woman and men.   The best way to achieve this goal is widespread education through technology using stories from survivors and other examples from pop culture to show individuals how the rape culture bombards their lives every day.  I highly support the ideals and mission of The Pixel Project!