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THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2016: Rachel Street , 40, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our third annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2016. The annual campaign runs throughout the month of May 2016 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 campaign 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.

Our thirty-first and final 2016 Survivor Stories interview is with Rachel Street from the USA.

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 have been a Certified Victim Advocate for three years and have recently created a page called Empowered before and after Domestic Violence . I will be graduating in June 2016 with my high school diploma and will be attending my local community college to continue my education in the Criminal Justice field in hopes of becoming a parole officer. I am so proud of myself and my accomplishments and I have many more goals for my life. One of my big goals is to write a book within the next couple of years to help the public understand why we stay, and to educate communities of this epidemic – yes its possible! I am also working with the homeless at a shelter at this time.

Rachel Street1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I had been abused physically, mentally, and emotionally, and was also raped in a relationship. My life came to a horrifying halt in the summer of 2006 when the man who told me he loved me began to put fear in every inch of my body.

He first started with mentally abusing me. His name calling, persuading me I wasn’t worth much – that my family didn’t care about me – had me convinced that there was no way out. Shortly thereafter I became pregnant with twin girls. I thought maybe having brought these beautiful tiny beings into this world would make him a better man and motivate him to be a good example for his daughters. That wasn’t the case. He actually became more aggressive and possessive – more of a danger to not just myself, but to my newborn children. Shortly after they were born, he raped me and I became pregnant with another set of twins. I was helpless, broken, and scared – scared for myself and my children.

Through the next four years I stayed afraid. He kept me in line by telling me the Department of Children and Families were going to take my children from me if I told them about the abuse.

 

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

After a horrifying night of him strangling me, and my children witnessing this, I planned to leave when he would least expect it. He was arrested a couple days later on a warrant, and I stayed at a motel with my four toddlers for a few days.

The Department of Children and Families, escorted by an officer, came to the motel and took my children. For two years I fought the system to get my children back, only to lose them due to the lack of knowledge surrounding the effects domestic violence on families.

 

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

I have attended therapy to heal the best way I can – by taking the things I’ve learned about myself and utilised information for the better. Though the pain I feel daily and the loss of my children never goes away, I have to continue to better myself and to fight not just for myself but for them. For the sake of my future as well as theirs, they need to know and to see I never gave up – to know their mom continued fighting, and to speak out about domestic violence for others who are and have been silenced.

As I have never graduated from high school so I went back to school for my high school diploma, and I will graduate this June. I’m very proud of myself, but I do get scared because it’s real and it’s positive change. I will also be attending a local college to get my Associates degree in Criminal Justice and I’m extremely excited.

I want to empower other women and support them because I know what it’s like to not have support from the system. I want to be the voice for those who are and have been silenced. Be strong be brave!

 

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

I would encourage her to find available resources. I would empower her and let her know that she is important, and is very capable of pursuing a better life and completing long- and short-term goals. That she is deserving of good things, worthy of a happy and healthy relationship.

 

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

By speaking out about it, by educating others with patience and perseverance, and by empowering victims.

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

Violence against women is an epidemic and The Pixel Project is a wonderful cause that helps women suffering domestic violence and other forms of violence against women become aware of the different resources available to them, for example: shelter, counselling, and safety planning to help them become who they once were again.

Through their Survivor Stories campaign, The Pixel Project encourage victims and survivors to know that they’ve always had a voice, and that they can find their voice again. We can change lives by sharing our stories, journeys, and accomplishments. We can empower others and let them know that YES it is possible to recover, and gain our lives and self-esteem back.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2016: Kristine Offerdahl, 47, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our third annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2016. The annual campaign runs throughout the month of May 2016 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 campaign 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.

Our thirtieth 2016 Survivor Stories interview is with Kristine Offerdahl from the USA.

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:

Kristine is an advertising/marketing professional currently working on a Digital Marketing Specialisation certificate. After escaping a physically, mentally, financially, and emotionally abusive marriage of over 20 years, she relocated to Washington, D.C. with her son and partner. Kristine became very active in the yoga community and is currently a work/study at a local studio. Kristine enjoys reading, gourmet cooking/baking, and walking/running around the nation’s capital, seeing all of the amazing history, museums, and monuments. She is passionate about sharing her story, and is hoping to someday publish a cookbook featuring recipes shared by other violence against women (VAW) survivors, as well as their art and stories.

Kristine Offerdahl_cropped1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I endured over 20 years of horrific beatings, choking, punching, kicking, shoving, knives to my throat, having my head used to smash furniture, cabinets and walls, as well as verbal, emotional and financial abuse. My son witnessed most of these incidents over the years.

One day after being beaten and having my life threatened, I decided to let my family know what a monster my husband was. They lived out of state, so I was constantly reminded that I could not leave Maryland with our minor son to flee to Pennsylvania. I felt so trapped and helpless.

 

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

I told my family after enduring violence for over 20 years, but they all lived out of state.  We put together a plan which involved getting a lawyer and a therapist for me, and I found an apartment during my lunch break one day. My son and I went to church on the 7th of July, 2013 and I never returned home or to my husband.

We didn’t take anything. My family drove down with just about everything that we needed, and friends helped too. My friend thought that I was going crazy because I was so preoccupied for the 12 weeks it took to plan the escape. I was also crying a lot, but I couldn’t tell anybody.

It has been almost three years now and the divorce is over. In the meantime, I have met an amazing man who is the exact opposite of everything that I had known for the past two decades.

 

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

Having a therapist really helped. My family paid my rent and took care of the lawyer fees. Financial abuse/lack of finances was mostly what kept me trapped for so many years. I knew that I could not do it on my own and I was afraid to ask for help. I was also very afraid to leave him – I was afraid of getting killed.

My son and I have moved to a different state and we have a fresh start. I had surgery on my nose to fix the damage from all of the blows over the years. I am so excited about this new chance at life and my son has a great example as to what a healthy, happy and loving relationship looks like.

 

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

Having a plan is great if it is possible, but my main advice is to leave and worry about the details later. It will work out. Get support and help from friends and family, local agencies, or your church. I had to leave everything, even my dog. Soon it will be three years since I left, and things couldn’t be better. My son is so happy now, and I am too.

 

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

Education. Parents talking to their children about violence, telling them that it is not acceptable under ANY circumstance. Telling their children that they are loved, and if there is any type of violence at all, to call them immediately. By breaking the cycle, my son now has a shot at a healthy life and healthy relationships. We need to show children that actions have consequences.

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because of their passion for helping victims of VAW not just in small towns, but on a global basis. The Pixel Project is raising awareness and funds through social media, digital platforms and new technologies. The power of social and digital media is evident, and that means a new generation is going to be reached with this message. If kids, teens, and young adults can be informed and educated about VAW issues, there is hope for the future - a violence-free future, not only for women, but for everyone.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2016: Tracie Tucker, 34, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our third annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2016. The annual campaign runs throughout the month of May 2016 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 campaign 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.

Our twenty-ninth 2016 Survivor Stories interview is with Tracie Tucker from the USA.

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The Survivor Bio:

I am the founder/director of a local support group for domestic violence victims and survivors that meets weekly and we are celebrating our one-year anniversary this month. I have a full-time job as a legal assistant and plan to go back to college for psychology to help domestic violence survivors. I live in South Texas with my son and boyfriend of over 2 years and am in a happy and healthy relationship. I love working outdoors, in the yard and garden, but most of all, my favorite thing to do is saltwater fishing.

Tracie Tucker 2016_final1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I was married to an abuser for four years who physically, sexually, emotionally and financially abused me.

 

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

I pressed charges, had him arrested, got a protective order, divorced him, then assisted law enforcement in prosecuting him on felony domestic violence charges.

 

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

My abuser was incarcerated for a long time after I left him. It wasn’t until he was released on parole that I realised that I needed to cope with everything and that I needed help.

Conventional counselling just didn’t fit me, so I began a support group for domestic violence victims and survivors. Healing alongside others who understand, and public speaking on behalf of survivors have proven to be therapeutic for me.

In addition to that, I have begun faith-based counselling with my pastor. Faith-based counselling is very important to me, especially when trying to control anxiety, anger and depression.

 

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

Your life is more valuable than your abuser has led you to believe. There is a better, healthier, happier option than staying in a destructive and abusive relationship. If you do not know what resources are available in your community for victims of domestic violence, contact your local law enforcement’s crime victim liaison, they know and they will share their knowledge with you whether or not you choose to press charges against your abuser.

Leave the first opportunity you get! While he is working, sleeping, in the shower, whatever the case may be – just leave. Clothes, furniture, vehicles are all material, your life is what matters most. If you cannot get those items safely now, you can get new ones later.

Join a support group with other survivors so that you may lean on each other and you will understand that you are not alone and there is hope. PUT YOUR LIFE FIRST, ESPECIALLY IF YOU HAVE CHILDREN! If you do have children, just having them in the same household as one with domestic violence is considered child abuse/neglect and the state can and will remove your children if notified and you choose to continue to stay in an abusive home with your children.

 

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

It is imperative to have absolutely ZERO TOLERANCE for violence against women! At the first sign, press charges and leave.

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because I am a survivor, and I know and understand how important it is to have as many resources as possible for awareness of domestic violence and other forms of violence against women.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2016: Marica Phipps, 36, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our third annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2016. The annual campaign runs throughout the month of May 2016 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 campaign 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.

Our twenty-eighth 2016 Survivor Stories interview is with Marica Phipps from the USA.

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

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The Survivor Bio:

Marica Phipps is founder of Battered Not Broken, Inc, a non-profit organisation, where she uses her personal testimony of overcoming domestic violence as a platform to provide crisis intervention services, support and empowerment to domestic violence victims, survivors and their families.  In addition to her advocacy, Marica is a writer, public speaker, mentor, and owner of ‘Gracious Survivor’, a store that offers apparel and goods for survivors and advocates against domestic abuse. She is also a full time senior administrative assistant at a financial insurance company and is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology, all while maintaining balance in her family that includes three children. 

Marica Phipps1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

On December 2013, I was forced to flee from my home in the snow. I was unclothed and vulnerable and had no choice but to leave my 7-year-old daughter, after being beaten unmercifully by a monster – her father.

That night, I was repeatedly beaten, strangled, and kicked like an animal from head to toe by a man twice my size. I endured blunt force trauma that split my head open from my forehead to the middle of my skull and was strangled to the point I felt my body going numb and my soul leaving my body. The entire time he beat me, he told he was going to kill me, and let me tell you – he tried!

Unfortunately, that was not the first time I felt the blow of my ex’s closed fist and the force of his strength. Five years prior, I had almost lost my life when I endured subdural haemorrhage from him beating and kicking my head multiple times and leaving me unconscious (while my two little girls watched).

The physical abuse was only a small part I endured compared to the 7 ½ years of mental and emotional abuse from his narcissistic behaviour.

 

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

A couple of months prior to the assault in 2013, I had made the decision to leave the relationship. I began to see my worth and took off the blinders of rationalising his behaviour.   Little did I know, women are in the most danger at the end of a relationship, so I had no idea my life was in danger as I was making plans to exit the relationship.  After the last assault, I never again went back to the relationship.

 

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

My faith and patience was tested many times as I navigated though the many layers of the judicial system. I overcame the rollercoaster of my own emotions and also supported my children’s journeys to healing.

Early in my recovery process, I made the decision that I was not going to let the experience break me. Two things kept me going: my relationship with God and my children. My relationship with God played a significant part, as it’s what kept me going on the days when I felt I had nothing left. My children, especially my daughters, were my motivation. I knew they were watching me and I couldn’t and wouldn’t allow them to see my break.

I made the decision to use the experience as a time to “pull over” and re-evaluate my journey thus far and my destination going forward.I had to dig deep and confront my insecurities and all of my weaknesses that made me bound and made me a “perfect match” for a person like my ex.

 

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

It’s not easy. Your experience with domestic violence, sexual assault or rape, etc, may be one of the most difficult things you will experience in your life.

Yet, we must remember that the most painful experiences teach us the greatest lessons. There are many experiences in our lives that leave us battered resulting in emotions that leave us feeling psychologically traumatised, abandoned, rejected and confused.

However, it is important to remember that our struggles and challenges are not given to destroy and break us; they are given to us as students, to learn and strengthen our areas of weakness.  Life is our best teacher; we must be willing to learn.

 

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

The only remedy we ever have to heal is in our own self-consciousness. We must make a commitment to help save the lives of others along our own journey; we must be willing to open our eyes and see when someone is in need. For those whom we do not “see” we must lift our voice so they can hear us speak up and tell our story so they may be able to understand their own.

This ripple effect is profound, as it enables others to see and make the necessary changes that need to occur to begin leading lives that include safe and healthy relationships.

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because of their mission of action. As a survivor and an advocate I support their mission fully because we must all take action if we wish to see change! They are intentionally working to bring awareness and refusing to make excuses and rationalisations that our society makes when it comes to domestic violence or any other type of violence against women.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2016: Jessica Johnson, 41, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our third annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2016. The annual campaign runs throughout the month of May 2016 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 campaign 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.

Our twenty-seventh 2016 Survivor Stories interview is with Jessica Johnson from the USA.

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 survivor of domestic violence and the Executive Director of SAGE (Safety- Advocacy- Growth and Empowerment)- a crime victims agency that helps survivors of all violent crimes.  I also have a chronic disease called Multiple Sclerosis (MS). I love to read. I read as much as I can and have a very eclectic taste in books. I also enjoy writing.  I have just started a blog I call “The world As I See it”.  I love hanging out with my friends and traveling. I also love to create things, wreaths, cheesecakes, scrapbooking, sewing, baskets, and gifts for people.  Anything that I can do to use my creative side is so important to me. Of course, I love hanging out with my family and enjoying them as much as I can.

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

I was in an emotionally, physically and sexually abusive relationship for about 5 years.

It was a classic case: the abuse started slowly, with isolation away from my family and friends.  After I left, the stalking started. He didn’t want us (me and our daughter), but he didn’t want anyone else to have us either.  He called and left awful messages. In one particular message he threatened to slice my throat and have our daughter watch – the threats were real and terrifying.

 

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

I was like most victims of domestic violence: I left many times but always returned because my abuser promised that it would end.

The day I left for good was after I had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and he told me I was faking my symptoms to get attention.  I decided it would be easier to raise my two year old daughter by myself. After the death threats started, I sought a restraining order and cut off all contact. I still choose not to communicate with him, and only communicate through his parents when I absolutely have to have a conversation about our daughter.

I don’t hate my abuser anymore; I don’t have any feelings for him at all. My abuse happened to me, but it also made me the person I am today. People can survive domestic violence and go on to make a difference.

 

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

After my neurologist told me that he would like to put me in the hospital, I realised that I needed to take care of myself, so I could be there for my daughter. I made myself a priority.

I started seeing a therapist and started rebuilding my self-esteem.  I realised that I was a worthwhile person and I deserved a relationship that was safe, respectful and free of violence, but first I needed to rediscover myself and learn to love myself again. Once I had done this, I was able to go on and find someone who loves me for who I am and supports me in all of my actions. I am now very happily married to my soulmate.

 

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

Don’t give up!  You deserve a relationship that is full of respect, that is safe and is free of violence. You can move forward and have a good life.  You can heal and help others heal.  You are SO WORTH IT!

 

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

By engaging as many people as we can. This is not just one person’s problem, it is everyone’s problem.  It will take everyone- one person at a time can do their part to take responsibility and then we will stand a chance to change the world and end violence. 

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because it works to end violence against women. So do I. It is a cause I am very passionate about.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2016: HannahSarah Cameron, 22, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our third annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2016. The annual campaign runs throughout the month of May 2016 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 campaign 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.

Our twenty-sixth 2016 Survivor Stories interview is with Hanna Sarah Cameron from the USA.

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The Survivor Bio:

HannahSarah Cameron is 22 years old. She started working with her platform for pageants of helping women who had been affected by domestic violence.  She has always had a warm heart after visiting them and hearing their stories. She works with schools to educate them on the signs of domestic violence and how they can get help. She is active on social media to help spread awareness about this issue. She has now been happily married for a year and 7 months. She loves showing that victims can overcome and recover from an abusive relationship and she is in the process of getting awareness classes into the Idaho curriculum.

Hannah Sarah Cameron1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I was affected by domestic violence. I was sixteen years old when I met my “dream guy”. We worked together and ended up going on dates. Things got tricky when I moved to go to a different school but we made things work. He was charming. I fell in love fast and he knew I would never say no to him. That was when it all started.

He would manipulate me, lie to me, he would not do things for me unless I did something for him. So many red flags popped up. My mom and friends and even teachers warned me to get out, but I always made excuses for him. “He will change”. “He is never like this”. I was sucked in.

I was in this relationship on and off. I would always come back to him and he knew that. I walked away from it all before my freshman year of college but he came back into my life months later when he told me “I am different now”.

When we finally went to the same college, I would go over and smell the alcohol on him. I would be scared at times because I thought he would hurt me, but I never got out. I felt afraid to say anything because I did not want him to leave me.

 

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

I was twenty years old when I found myself. I realised that I did not deserved to be treated that way. I was done being the victim. I finally told him NO MORE. He tried to fight to get me back; he even threatened me. I stood my ground and got out.

I ended up moving way and lost complete contact with him. I found an amazing guy who is now my husband. He showed me that real men don’t treat women the way I was treated.

 

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

It took me a long time to get over what was done to me. I had to trust people all over again. What truly helped me heal were pageants. My platform is Break The Cycle: Giving Women Confidence They Can Carry. I educate our youth about domestic violence and also help the women in shelters by providing them with a purse filled with essential items that they may not have been able to take with them when getting out of a bad situation.

 

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

I would not judge them for staying with their abuser. I would help them get the help they needed. Be there for them and encourage them.

It can be scary to let someone know they are being abused because you don’t know what will happen if you tell; but being by their side and holding their hand through it all is what will help them.

 

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

Educate our youth about the signs of domestic violence and how they can get help. They are the future so teaching them now will help prevent it for further generations.

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support them because I was a victim and I want to be able to be the voice for everyone who has experienced this. I love how they work with men to educate them about the issue of violence against women and join forces with them to end violence against women in their communities.

I know how important it is to work with your community on getting them involved. Being active in my community as well as online, I can highly utilise The Pixel Project to bring that extra awareness to the issue.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2016: Tamara Grosvenor, 56, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our third annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2016. The annual campaign runs throughout the month of May 2016 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 campaign 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.

Our twenty-fifth 2016 Survivor Stories interview is with Tamara Grosvenor from the USA.

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:

Tamara S. Grosvenor is a survivor, thriver, mom, and realtor.  She is currently a law student who intends, as a lawyer, to advocate for survivors of violence and child abuse. She also volunteers for child abuse prevention council and a non-profit organisation that educates youth in non-violence and provides support for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors.   Outside her work and advocacy, Tamara is a soccer mom to two wonderful teenage boys.  In her spare time, she hikes, plays golf, skis, and does yoga.    

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

I spent years in a verbally abusive relationship.  My children heard me called names I won’t share. Then the abuse switched to financial and legal abuse. After I was physically abused,  I left.

Even though I suffer from permanent injury to my hip, I still believe the emotional abuse was far worse than the physical abuse. The emotional abuse tears at your self-esteem and paralyses the victim.

 

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

I had no choice but to leave:

I had been thrown to the ground, sat on, and repeatedly punched.  What gave me the courage to leave was the fact that he called the police and accused me of violence.

Thankfully, the attending officers inspected both of us, saw not one scratch on him. They photographed my bruises, scratches and bleeding, and then arrested him.

It was then that I knew I could never be with someone that was not man enough to own up to what he had done, who would falsely accuse me in order to save his own hide.

 

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

I was lucky to find a very good psychologist.  She had worked with battered women and helped me to really understand and take action towards recovery.  Because there had been an arrest, the children and I both qualified for reimbursement by the victims fund which was administered by the county.

I also found a new calling: I started law school and I will graduate in six months.  As an attorney I hope to advocate for mothers and children and utilise my experience with compassion in order to help others.  No survivor should face abuse in any form once they have found the courage to leave.

 

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

Reach out to domestic violence nonprofits in your area.  Go to support groups where you will meet many others with similar experiences. Take actions that will help you and your children in the long run.

Remember the abuser is the one with the problem, not you.

 

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

The violence won’t end until we hold abusers accountable.  I believe all domestic violence charges should be subject to no-drop policies. There is a great discussion of this in Barry Goldstein’s book The Quincy Solution.  Police should video tape every encounter and the videos should be allowed into evidence. The added benefit would be a safer environment for law enforcement since domestic violence accounts for about 35% of all police calls.

The other key is educating the next generation at every age, every year, in school, so everyone learns violence is not okay.

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

Look back through history and we can see that women have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.  I like how The Pixel Project is working to increase awareness of the problem of violence against women.  I believe the current generation has benefited from the actions of the women that came before us and that we owe the next generations a substantially different environment, one in which no violence will be tolerated.

The Pixel Project is a spoke in the wheel of change that can help promote the cause of zero tolerance of violence against women and girls and a fair, equal, and safe world for all women.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2016: Stephanie Hassler, 40, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our third annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2016. The annual campaign runs throughout the month of May 2016 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 campaign 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.

Our twenty-fourth 2016 Survivor Stories interview is with Stephanie Hassler from the USA.

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:

Stephanie Hassler fights every day to transition from victim to survivor of domestic violence. In the early morning hours of November 15, 2004, she had her ex-husband arrested for hitting her repeatedly with a casted hand that he’d broken while beating her a few nights before. She left her life in Pennsylvania to build a new one in her home state of New Jersey with her then 10 month old son. She is happily remarried to a wonderful man with whom she shares four beautiful children. She owns a marketing agency and hopes to someday be a victim’s advocate.

Stephanie Hassler1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

My first-hand experience with domestic violence began in May of 1996 when I met my future ex-husband, and ended in November 2004 when I had him arrested for assault. He was only the third man I’d ever dated – a successful electrical engineer who graduated at the top of his class, was fit and handsome, and clearly out of my league. Though I’d tried to leave him early in our relationship, he attributed his rage and control to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)– which was clearly exhibited in many of his behavioural habits.

I felt sorry for him. I felt like I could help him. I had no idea what was happening. He controlled my finances, my clothing, my relationships with friends and family, my career path, what, how, and when I ate, etc. I did not realise the man he was or the woman I had become until my son was born and it was nearly too late.

Though I am happily remarried with three children in addition to my son, the physical, verbal, financial and emotional abuse has left permanent scars that neither time nor a healthy relationship will erase.

 

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

We’d been in court before. He’d been in altercations and had citations from both friends and strangers. But I still didn’t see it. It wasn’t until the evening of November 15, 2004, when he attacked me for not snuggling properly, that I finally had him arrested. While we lay in his mandatory position in bed with the metal splint on his right hand resting firmly and uncomfortably between my breasts, I must have squirmed…or sighed…or somehow expressed discontent, which triggered a reaction.

Rather than engaging him (since the splint was a result of a boxer’s break he’d suffered while beating me a few nights before), I left for the guest room. He followed me and proceeded to beat me. I called 911. He left the room and I stayed on the phone with the operator until Officer Joseph Dows arrived. Officer Dows reviewed my options with me and I decided not to press charges, until my ex-husband told him that the next time they’d be called to my house, they’d be arresting me. It was then and only then that I made the decision to have him arrested (which he resisted).

I have never looked back.

 

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

My son has been my beacon. I realised that it wasn’t just about me and what I could endure anymore – it was also about what I was exposing him to. We left our home in PA the night I had my ex-husband arrested.

I constantly shared the company of supportive people who never pushed me, but fuelled my determination. My work family was very supportive and allowed me to keep my job until I found a new job. My parents shared their home, helped me find a lawyer, encouraged me to seek counselling, supervised my son’s visitations in their home, transported me to bi-weekly custody exchanges, and accompanied me to all of my court appearances. My older brother moved into my new home with me so that I felt safe. My ex-husband’s friends testified on my behalf.

I have had setbacks – my ex-husband’s abuse of the court system aimed at ruining me financially, and then having to vacate my home when he relocated from PA to just a mile from my new home. His presence will always unnerve me, but I am determined to live and to survive one day at a time.

 

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

I wish there was something that I could say to make every woman see her own light. Unfortunately, it shines within each of us. I will not frame myself as a martyr. Though I didn’t realise what was happening, I do acknowledge that I ignored my mom’s warnings, his arrests and confrontations, and my initial instincts. I wanted to see the good in him that simply did not exist.

I know now that my personality is “co-dependent” and that classification is what threatened me and eventually saved me. It was the realisation that I would be raising my son in an environment fraught with unacceptable behaviour that forced me to acknowledge our circumstances and fight for a better life. So, I would tell someone like me to fight back. It’s worth it. You’re worth it. Life is worth it. If you don’t have positive influences in your life, call me. I’ll help you find them. I’ll try to be one for you.

 

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

The best support I received came from my women’s support group. I could talk to you at length about what happened to me, and it’s just a story for me to re-live. But, if you put me in a room with other women who have been through it, we cannot hide from the raw emotion of what we’ve been through. To end violence against women, we need more women to talk about it. We need more women to be lauded for surviving it, rather than being shamed for having been a part of it.

We need to find a way to provide support and stability for women who want to move on, so that they don’t get sucked back into abusive relationships. To survive these situations, the court system needs to be better – harsher and more consistent penalties, strict and permanent restraining orders, financial and emotional assistance. Until we prove that women can survive violent situations, they will continue to be vulnerable prey.

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

As a child of the 80s, I grew up thinking that something so socio-economically related like this would never happen to me. That was my first mistake because violence against women knows no race, no socioeconomic status, and no educational background. It can happen to the most vibrant of us, to the quietest. It can take a life in a heartbeat or scar a life forever.

The goal of The Pixel Project is to raise awareness about violence against women and I believe that where there is awareness, there is hope. The more I talk about what I’ve been through, the more friends I have who confide in me about their own ordeals. We are an underground current that needs to rise to the surface. I believe efforts by organisations such as The Pixel Project are helping us find our way, and I want to do what I can to support that.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2016: Sara Ackerman, 36, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our third annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2016. The annual campaign runs throughout the month of May 2016 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 campaign 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.

Our twenty-third 2016 Survivor Stories interview is with Sara Ackerman from the USA.

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The Survivor Bio:

Sara still gets excited about going in to work every morning, even after over a decade on the job. Not only does she have a great job teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) and helping immigrants, she gets to explore her other passions during the summer. When she’s not teaching grad classes or speaking professionally about ESL, she likes to write. Recently Sara published her first novel and will be releasing her second one by June of 2016. Sara is a survivor of domestic violence. She is grateful every day for second chances, and a fulfilling life with her husband and two beautiful children.

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

I am a survivor of domestic violence. My ex-husband was an alcoholic, drug addicted sociopath who tormented me psychologically and physically for eighteen months.

 

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

One night he called me at work to yell at me. He was angry that his alarm clock did not go off, so he missed work. He blamed me and then threatened to kill me and take the baby.

That’s when I knew that I could not stay with him anymore. I called my parents and went straight from work to their house. I don’t know that I would have left had he not threatened my baby.

 

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

I threw myself into providing a good life for my child and me. With the help of my parents and friends who had not abandoned me during the abuse, I went back to school, got my teaching license and became a teacher.

Additionally, I started therapy and was treated for depression, anxiety and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I suppressed much of the trauma I had experienced until I was mentally ready to deal with it. It’s only been in the last three years that I have been working through the most severe trauma of the abuse with my therapist. It’s hard, emotional work, but I am in a loving and stable relationship and in a safe environment. I finally feel like I can let go of the past.

 

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

If a relationship hurts you or makes you feel worthless, then it is time to get out. It is a scary proposition and easier said than done, but it is so important to get out before it’s too late.

Find someone you can trust to help you – a parent, a neighbour, a friend. If you don’t have someone you trust, go to a church, or a women’s shelter. Just take that first step and go.

 

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

It is so important to talk about domestic abuse and other types of gender-based violence. Many survivors feel shame for what happened because it is still a very hush-hush topic in today’s society. Survivors need to be encouraged to speak about what happened to them so that others can understand the myriad of factors that comprise gender-based violence.

I think society as a whole has an image in their head of what an abuse victim looks like, but it’s so much more all-encompassing than the average person could ever realise. Abuse touches everyone in every social class, ethnicity, religion, and age group, but perversely, no one ever thinks it could happen to them. Only through the process of honest, non-judgemental dialogue with survivors of gender-based violence can members of society begin to truly see the toxic prevalence of abuse found in their own neighbourhoods. Only then it is possible that true change can occur.

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because it’s Survivor Stories campaign provides survivors with a platform for their voices to be heard and recognised. Perhaps our collective voices raised up in strength and unity will give those who remain in silence the courage to finally speak.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2016: Ruth Piper, 46, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our third annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2016. The annual campaign runs throughout the month of May 2016 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 campaign 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.

Our twenty-second 2016 Survivor Stories interview is with Ruth Piper from the USA.

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 Ruth Piper and I was married for seven years to a very abusive man.  It has been 14 years since I was able to leave him the final time.  We had two children together.  They were 1 and 3 when I left their father. I had no job, no money and no family close by.  I am now a legal advocate for domestic violence victims, working at Catalyst Domestic Violence Services. My dogs and my kids are my two greatest joys in life.  I have three sons and three dogs.  Since my sons are all almost grown now, my dogs and I spend a lot of time in the park chasing balls.

Ruth Piper 2_cropped1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I was in a very emotionally/verbally abusive relationship for seven years.  I was not allowed to leave the house without him, nor was I allowed to answer the phone.  I had become isolated from friends and family and I did not have much, if any, contact with anyone other than my husband.

Over the seven years he repeatedly told me that I was stupid, crazy and worthless. I believed him.  He had me convinced that I was lucky to have him to take care of me because no one else would put up with my ‘sorry ass’.  My three year old son had also begun to treat me just like his father did, and that scared me.

Both children had witnessed much of the abuse that had happened.  At that time, my three year old son had grown accustomed to spitting on me and calling me names just like his father.

 

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

My mother had finally become aware of how volatile my marriage was and witnessed my husband verbally attack me and promise to kill me. Although she lived over 400 miles away, she managed to call me every day, sometimes two or three times a day, to tell me that I was NOT stupid, NOT crazy and tell me all the good qualities that I possessed and to tell me how she feared for my safety all of the time.

After some time with her consistently calling, I began to get stronger and more aware of the reality of my situation, which in turn gave me the tools I needed to see my own situation for what it was, and to realise how wrong my husband was and how unsafe my situation had become.  It did take some time to get my husband to really understand that we would never be together again, but eventually he stopped pursuing me.

 

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

The first thing that I did was to begin to surround myself with people who saw me in a positive way and who were supportive.  I found a part-time job and enrolled at the community college.  The first two years I had to have a roommate so there was another adult in my house to help keep my husband at bay, and to help with the kids.  Eventually I became more and more independent and no longer needed so much help.

After two years at the community college I continued my education at the State University, graduating with a BA in Psychology.  In my last year of school I started volunteering at my local Domestic Violence agency to work with others who were in the same situation as I had been.  Out of everything, the one thing that proved to be the most healing was working with people who were in abusive relationships.  It allowed me to feel like what I had lived through had a purpose.  And I was able to pull the positive things out of the experience and use them to help others.

 

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

Always stay in contact with at least one person who is not directly involved in your situation. Someone who can support you any way you need, remind you that you are important in this world and have a lot to give, and that you deserve to be treated fairly, with kindness and compassion.

If you do not know anyone, start telling yourself in the mirror positive affirmations every day. And don’t ever give up on yourself.  Your strength is within. Whatever is happening, it isn’t your fault and you are not alone.

 

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

Educating our children as early as kindergarten about healthy relationships and how to treat each other with kindness and understanding.  Stop exposing them to the violence you find on the television and see in the advertisements.  Stop allowing for sexism in any form.  We passively support violence against women by allowing magazines, big business, and marketing companies to continue using the female image to promote their products. We buy into it, and that would have to stop before anything else can change.

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because their Survivor Stories campaign seems like a good idea because it is important to share our stories, because our stories are what really help people understand the seriousness of the issue.