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. 

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

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.