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-seventh 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Leslie Evans from USA.
TRIGGER WARNING: The first two Q&As in this interview may be distressing for some Domestic Violence survivors.
The Survivor Bio:
Leslie Evans is a 36-year old single mother of four. In 2008, she received the Mother of the Year award from Emerge! Center against Domestic Violence in Tucson, Arizona. In 2010, she was recognised by the governor and received a Voices of Victims award. She is currently on the Share Committee, which is part of the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. In this capacity, she gets together monthly with other survivors and talks about current issues going on in her state and help finds ways to educate and spread awareness. Through the Collation she was given an opportunity to speak with professionals about what works and doesn’t work when helping victims by sharing her own experiences. She currently works as a private duty caregiver, a job which she created for herself. This allows her the opportunity to be a hands-on mother and be available to her children when needed. She has also found joy in sewing and is teaching herself to sew. She currently makes stuffed owls (Who’s Whoose made by Leslie) and hopes to sell them. She is also very involved in her church and is able to do outreach to other women in her community.
1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?
I have now been physically separated from my abuser for two years. I have endured all kinds of abuse for the last 13 years, including physical abuse – hitting, punching, pushing; sexual abuse – rape, forced sex with other another person, etc., mental abuse and to this very day, verbal abuse and threats.
I have been called every name in the book to how much he loves me, to how much he believes I can not live without him. I am currently safe physically as I moved 100 miles away but he communicates with the children. I monitor their conversations and he knows it. Through the children he continues to verbally and emotionally abuse me. I continue to go to therapy and group therapy to build myself esteem and build strong boundaries.
It is hard to admit to rape when you are married but he did hold me down once and then many times just would not let me sleep if I would not have sex with or he would wake up the children when they were young to ensure that I would not get much sleep. He would often just say that I was not smart enough or not able to make good choices. I had let him do things because I believed his lies about not being able to function without him.
2. How did you escape the violent situation/relationship/ritual?
I snuck out many times when he was drunk. I guess I was lucky in that I knew he would pass out soon enough if I could just survive when he was awake. The last time he was drunk and attempting to do a cleaning job for my mother, she kept him distracted while I collected all of my belongings along with my children and within three hours I had quit my very good job, got out of my lease, picked up my kids and moved out of town.
3. How did you heal and rebuild your life after the violent situation/relationship/ritual? What actions did you take?
The most important thing I did was seek help. And that was hard. It was very hard to find a non-crisis or non-shelter Domestic Violence group. I did find a group that I had to pay for and an amazing therapist. Without them I would have gone back to him a year ago. With their support I am able to find my reality and fight his lies.
4. What would you suggest to or share with another woman or girl facing the same situation as you did?
You deserve love and joy. You are not crazy! He is! You must find a support group. Al-Anon and CODA (co-dependency) groups will help if you’re unable to find one that is specific to abuse. You’re not alone. And it takes a long time to heal.
5. How do you think we can end violence against women?
My belief is that you cannot end violence against women. But I believe that just like racism will never be truly dead. However, a lot of people know it is wrong and they know what it sounds and looks like, so those who are racist have a harder time showing their true selves because it is not as socially acceptable as it once was. In the same way, we must make violence against women socially unacceptable so the perpetrators will find it hard to hide it, and victims will know sooner that what is happening to them is wrong.
We do this by talking about it. We do this by supporting victims. We do this by have better and stronger laws to make the abuser accountable for their actions. We do this by educate our children on what healthy relationships look like and sound like.
6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?
I support The Pixel Project because they support me by telling my story through other people. When I read a story I know I am not alone. I know that I am on the right path. I know that he is not my oxygen. I can breathe without him and breathe well. I live well. I am finding my truth and my joy.