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.