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.
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.
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.