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.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

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.