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ANNOUNCEMENT: Read For Pixels 2018 – Fall Edition

reveal-read-for-pixels-fall2018-slideJuly 17th, 2018 (WORLDWIDE): The Pixel Project, an anti-Violence Against Women non-profit, will be holding the fifth annual Fall Edition of their “Read For Pixels” Google Hangout campaign. “Read For Pixels” 2018 (Fall Edition) features live Google Hangouts with award-winning bestselling authors in support of the Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign, which aims to raise US$1 million in aid of The Pixel Project. Participating authors include Alison Goodman, Brandon Sanderson, David D. Levine, Fonda Lee, Fran Wilde, Jay Kristoff, Julie Czerneda, Juliet E. McKenna, Marie Brennan, Richard K. Morgan, Sarah Beth Durst, and Tananarive Due.

“Read For Pixels” 2018 (Fall Edition) Google Hangout sessions will run on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings from September 1st to September 30th 2018. Each session will feature an author reading from one of their books and discussing women and girls in their books, why they support ending violence against women, and women in the media, geek culture, and popular culture. Each session will also include a live moderated Q&A session for fans and book lovers to ask their favourite authors questions in real time.

The Pixel Project will also be holding the first Read For Pixels Google Hangout live panel session: Trashing The Rape Trope: Writing Violence Against Women in Fantasy. Acclaimed Fantasy authors Martha Wells, Kate Elliott, and Jim C. Hines will be discussing violence against women in the Fantasy genre and techniques for tackling the subject without dehumanising female characters. There will also be a live Q&A segment for writers and fans to ask Ms. Wells, Ms. Elliott, and Mr Hines questions. Multi-author panel sessions are a new feature of the Read For Pixels programme, created to be an accessible resource for writers interested in writing about female characters and approaching themes such as  misogyny, sexism, gender, and violence against women with depth, empathy, and accuracy.

Participating authors have also generously donated a range of exclusive goodies to help The Pixel Project encourage fans and book lovers to donate to the Pixel Reveal campaign including: Exclusive swag bags and book bundles, signed first editions or special editions of participating authors’ books, a chance to be a minor character in their upcoming books, and more. There are also exclusive goodies courtesy of Adrian Tchaikovsky (with Macmillan Books UK), Aliette de Bodard, Ann Aguirre, Charles de Lint, Jodi Meadows, Ken Liu, Lauren Oliver, Leigh Bardugo, Peter V. Brett, Steven Erikson, Susan Dennard, up-and-coming YA author Juliana Spink Mills, and more. In addition, Katherine Tegan Books at HarperCollins and award-winning NewCon Press are each donating a Mystery Book Box. Donations begin at as little as US$5 and the goodies are available to donors as “thank you” gifts and perks depending on the donation amount. Fundraising will take place on Rally Up in tandem with the Google Hangout series over the month of September 2018.

“Violence against women is one of the most widespread and entrenched human rights violations in the world and The Pixel Project is delighted that so many acclaimed authors have stepped up to join us in raising much-needed funds and widespread support for this cause,” said Regina Yau, Founder and President of The Pixel Project.  This September, we are also proud to welcome our 100th Read For Pixels author to the campaign. To date, the Read For Pixels campaign has collectively raised over US$51,000 for the cause and ignited online discussions about violence against women by fans and supporters. We will continue to hold the Fall Edition “Read For Pixels” annually in September as part of our ongoing programme of Read For Pixels events and activities. It is our hope that the authors’ support of the cause will inspire fans of their wonderful books and book lovers worldwide to not only donate generously, but also begin taking action to stop the violence in their communities wherever they are in the world.”

 

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 For more information about Read For Pixels, contact Regina Yau at info@thepixelproject.net or visit: http://is.gd/Read4Pixels.

About The Pixel Project (www.thepixelproject.net)

The Pixel Project is a complete virtual, volunteer-led global 501(c)3 nonprofit organisation whose mission is to raise awareness, funds and volunteer power for the cause to end violence against women through campaigns and programmes at the intersection of social media, new technologies, and popular culture/the Arts.

READ FOR PIXELS INTERVIEW: Faith Hunter

As part of The Pixel Project’s Read For Pixels campaign, we interview authors from genres as diverse as Science Fiction and Fantasy to Romance to Thrillers about why they support the movement to end violence against women and girls. 

Today we welcome New York Times bestselling author Faith Hunter who writes three series: the Jane Yellowrock series, dark urban fantasy novels featuring Jane, a Cherokee Skinwalker; the Rogue Mage novels, a dark, urban fantasy/post apocalyptic series and role playing game featuring Thorn St. Croix; and the Soulwood series featuring Nell Nicholson Ingram. Faith was to take part in a live Read For Pixels Google Hangout but due to unexpected technical issues with Google Hangout, Faith has very kindly agreed to do this exclusive interview instead.

Faith is also taking part in the 4th annual International Women’s Day Edition of the Read For Pixels campaign fundraiser by generously donating a very special perk to help raise funds for The Pixel Project – she has assembled an exclusive goodie bundle featuring personalised and signed books (including the ARC of the upcoming Jane Yellowrock novel DARK QUEEN), an exclusive micro story that only the donor has access to for 12 months in advance of everyone else (Faith will be printing it out and signing it!), and Yellowrock swag galore. This is available for one (1) generous donor only so hurry over to the Read For Pixels IWD 2018 fundraising page to donate to get it before someone else does!

(UPDATE: Faith’s goodie bundle has been picked up by a fan who pounced on it the moment it was posted! However, there are plenty more goodies available from authors including Aliette de Bodard, Ann Aguirre, Genevieve Valentine, Kimberly Derting, Lauren Oliver, Leigh Bardugo, Lynn Flewelling, Molly Harper, and more.)

If you’d like to have a chance to participate in live Q&As online with other award-winning bestselling authors who will be having live Read For Pixels Google Hangouts over the rest of March 2018, check out the schedule here.

And now, over to Faith…

Picture courtesy of Faith Hunter and book covers courtesy of Penguin Random House.

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FaithHunter10

1. Welcome to The Pixel Project‘s Read For Pixels campaign, Ms Hunter! Thank you so much for your support for the anti-violence against women work that we do. Let’s start by talking about your signature female protagonist Jane Yellowrock and newcomer Nell Ingram who is fast becoming a fan favourite. We absolutely love both of them! Who and what were your inspiration for Jane and Nell?

That’s a hard one seriously! As a commercial writer, ideas and characters are always floating around in my head. It isn’t inspiration that I need to find new characters, it’s the time and work and willingness create something new.

In Jane Yellowrock’s case, I was having tea with Kim Harrison (yes, that Kim Harrison) when the idea for a Cherokee skinwalker character began to grow. She had been banging around in my brain for a while (Jane, not Kim) but sitting and sipping allowed the character to germinate, along with an idea for a plot and conflict that would allow her to develop. Not a vampire main character, which was the most common type of Urban Fantasy character at the time, but a monster hunter, a vampire hunter with all the skills and abilities and tools to get the job done.

Nell came from my garden. The knowledge that plants can think and react and alter their environments to make them more habitable has been around for a long time. So why not a paranormal character who might be something like a dryad? Nell is a gardener, a plant whisperer who empathises with plants on a much deeper level than a regular human, and who also solves paranormal crimes on the side!

 

2. Neither Jane nor Nell are typical urban fantasy heroines – they have learning curves, they make mistakes, and they often get frustrated by men trying to control, thwart, or manipulate them. In other words, their experiences very much mirror the experiences of many women and girls worldwide. Was it a conscious decision on your part to portray them like this or did they evolve organically to be this way?

Yes and no. There is manipulation in all less-than-brutally-honest personal relationships. In the case of the world in which Jane Yellowrock and Nell Ingram live, there are also the paranormal creatures, apex predators, who, because of the cultures and times they came from, are master manipulators, selfish creatures who are as likely to use force to get their way as gamesmanship. They are beings and creatures who fight and influence and maneuver their way through what passes for relationships in their world, seeking control and power

All that said, I grew up in the fifties, sixties, and seventies, which were times of shifting gender roles and sudden sexual and personal freedoms, as well as the advent of the US civil rights movement. All those changes are hardwired into me, part of the reality I lived and still live, and part of my creative processes too. We have come so far and yet have so very, very, very far to go. So… the answer to the question is yes, my main characters evolved organically. And no, they are a product of my imagination and my personal and cultural history.

 

FlameintheDark_Web-cover-final3. You have tackled the issue of violence against women (including domestic violence, rape, and forced marriage) head on in the SOULWOOD series and handled it extremely well through the eyes and voice of Nell Ingram. Why did you decide to make violence against women a major theme in SOULWOOD and what were the particular challenges that you faced when writing about the issue through the story?

Working her way into the normal world, after growing up in a polygamous cult, Nell sees the dangers to women and children from both the inside, as a victim, and from the outside, as a recovering victim. Violence against women is not the purpose of the series, but that violence is what Nell sees, what she is attuned to, and what she is most capable of dealing with. It is also what she is most likely to take on. She has sisters still in the cult and from the beginning she refused to cut and run and leave them behind. Protecting her sisters, being there as a safe haven, is what makes her tick. Because violence against women and children is a major part of the character’s background, it permeates the series.

Yet, the biggest challenge as the writer has been to keep all that in the background, to make it less than front and center, more organic rather than in your face. To show without telling.

 

4.  Both the JANE YELLOWROCK and SOULWOOD series also go straight to the heart of the roots of violence against women – patriarchy, misogyny, and toxic masculinity. We see this in SOULWOOD where Nell’s former church is poisoned by the misogyny of the church male elders’. We also see this is Rick LaFleur’s story arc and Leo Pellissier’s actions. What’s striking is that unlike many Fantasy novels that normalise or even romanticise toxic masculine behaviour, your stories make it crystal clear that these masculine norms and behaviours are absolutely unacceptable. How have your own fans responded to your repudiation of toxic masculinity? Do you think that this kind of writing is able to engender discussion of and change the conversation around misogyny and toxic masculinity in the genre and fandom?

Thematic issues in books and series are and should be secondary to the storytelling. If the themes come before the plot and conflict and character development, the writing gets tired fast. So, while the underlying theme in the books is women who can stand on their own two feet and who don’t put up with bullshit, that is the unspoken truth, not the purpose of the story.

My characters are women who don’t need others to make them whole. Characters, and for that matter, real people, who feel incomplete without others, who feel weak without others, who feel empty and frightened unless they are part of a herd, have a mentality will never let them be true heroes. My characters, despite being flawed and having real weaknesses, are not herd creatures. They stand alone and they stand and fight for what’s right. And that means taking on the big bad uglies of society.

My fans seem to love it! As to whether my characters engender discussion and change the conversation about misogyny, I have no idea. I  hope so. But that is thematic. I just tell stories.

 

5. On the flipside, we also see excellent examples of positive masculinity as embodied by Eli and Alex Younger (JANE YELLOWROCK) and Occam (SOULWOOD) who all demonstrate that masculinity is not dependent on dominating and oppressing women and that treating women as equal human beings should be a given. Was this a deliberate choice to not only break stereotypes but also address toxic masculinity and the violence, pain and havoc it brings (including violence against women)?

I like heroes. Heroes lift others up, put others first. Heroes are not made smaller when others are made larger. Heroes know who they are and want the best for others. They are loyal and self-defining. They are strong enough to be soft. My male heroes and my female heroes fit this definition.

 

6. Sexual consent is sometimes a blurry area in many urban fantasy and paranormal romance books but as we can see from Jane’s relationship with Bruiser and Nell’s relationship with Occam, it is possible to have a healthy relationship with enthusiastic consent and not lose an ounce of romance or sexual tension. Do you think this blurred line is an issue that writers in the genre are now actively addressing and what tips can you give to less experienced writers who want to ensure that consent is part of the relationship equation for their characters?

Yes! I see writers, male and female both, addressing the concept of consent and it makes me leap for joy! I see us addressing Stockholm syndrome, and the way predators often groom their victims. I see us changing the way romantic courtship takes place, showing a way into sexual and romantic relationships that do not include prey/predator roles. I’ve been talking about thematic nuances and thematic underpinnings, and consent, for me, is not part of the thematic underlayment of a book or series. For me, mature sexuality is part of character development and character development is a device that is conscious, part of the in-your-face storytelling. Consent is part of the way people and characters show respect for each other.

As a writer, I have to be aware that immature people and immature relationships almost always follow toxic formulas. It’s easy to write an immature character and a lot harder to write a full bodied mature character. I try to take the hard road. Always. The hard road means a better book.

Advice for less experienced writers? Don’t take the easy way out. Don’t write what is easy. Write what is difficult. Write the thing that makes you sweat and weep and push through to make your book and your characters work.

 

DarkQueen7. Over the years, a number of authors who have participated in the Read For Pixels campaign said in one way or another that authors can help stop violence against women by telling the right stories. In your opinion and experience, how can authors strike a balance in their storytelling between raising awareness about sexism and violence against women and telling an engaging story without being pedantic or preachy or falling back on toxic tropes?

The pen is mightier than the sword, right? My job isn’t to teach or preach or show toxicity. My job isn’t to change the world. Not that I’m stepping away from responsibility or opportunity. But “showing a better way” and “preaching a new concept” has to be secondary to writing a good story. THAT is my job. The conflict resolution and character development have to come first. If people see a lesson in the thematic underpinnings of a story, well that is great and I am honoured. But ripping the blinders off of society is a tough job. Telling a great story is what they pay me for. And the times I can do both? That is icing on the cake!

 

8. Geek culture in general (including Science Fiction and Fantasy) has had its share of critics saying that it’s still too male-dominated despite a rising number of prominent, well-respected, and well-known female authors such as yourself. What do you think needs to be done to make Geek culture as a whole whether it’s comics or gaming or books – more welcoming for women and girls?

Honestly, I think a lot of men – not just geek men — have no idea how to have healthy relationships with women. Maybe instituting “How To” classes in high school? Teaching roles in conversation, so guys can have discussions with women instead of stalking them? Teaching men how to tell when they’ve have reached a final line and need to turn away? Giving demonstration in what stalking is?  Teaching women how to say “No,” with a lot more finality? Teaching women that it’s okay to be firm and direct and even pointedly mean (if necessary) when we say no? Teaching women that we don’t have to be polite and sweet in the face of harassing persistence. Basic stuff needs to be taught in adolescence.

And if it’s the adult men we want to teach, then panels in ComicCons, titled “How to Attract a Woman and NOT Be A Dick”? I know that sounds silly but, it needs to be taught somehow somewhere. I’d love to sit on a panel with that topic!

 

9. Publishing has started having its own #MeToo reckoning with survivors coming forward to name a number of male authors and editors as having a history of behaving extremely inappropriately towards female colleagues (including workplace bullying and sexual harassment and assault at cons). What do you think the publishing industry can and/or should do to address this issue?

Fire the publishers and editors who have more than one accuser. I say “more than one accuser,” because one woman might use the #MeToo movement as way to get revenge on a man for other things. But where there is a lot of smoke, fire the men (and the women) accused. And then do their parts by buying books for publication that depict healthy adult relationships. Publishers and editors should make it a point to recognise toxic attitudes in the books they buy and help writers to take a step in the right direction of depicting healthier relationships.

For me personally, I have refused to blurb any book that uses toxic predator/prey methodologies, Stockholm syndrome, or other toxic tropes in the romantic angle. I have no idea what the editors think when I tell them no, that I won’t blurb a book that depicts toxic elements as a norm, but I am very frank in my replies about the problems. We all have a responsibility, and this is where I take my stand. I say no. A lot.

 

10. You have been so very incredibly supportive of our “Read For Pixels” campaign and our anti-Violence Against Women work as a whole. Why do you support ending violence against women and what do you think authors can do to help end the violence?

I worked in a hospital lab for 40 years. I was part of the evidence collection for rape victims. It was horrible. Utterly horrible, what victims have to go through, even after an assault. Throughout my entire life, I’ve seen abusive relationships, and not just abusive men, but abusive women too. It’s a human problem, a victim problem, not just a women’s problem.

That said, I have female writer friends who have suffered abuse and who have been dragged through the dirt, vilified, threatened, and abused again when they speak up against their accusers in the publishing arena. It’s my job as a human being to stand with them when they name names and call the guilty accountable. It’s all our jobs. We have to get off our asses and fight to be human. Together.

READ FOR PIXELS INTERVIEW: Ian Whates

As part of The Pixel Project‘s Read For Pixels campaign, we interview authors from genres as diverse as Science Fiction and Fantasy to Romance to Thrillers about why they support the movement to end violence against women and girls. 

In this interview, we talk to Ian Whates who is the author of seven novels, the co-author of two more, and editor of thirty-odd anthologies. Seventy of his short stories have appeared in various venues and his work has been shortlisted for the Philip K Dick Award and twice for BSFA Awards. In 2006, Ian founded award-winning independent publisher NewCon Press by accident.

NewCon Press is taking part in the 4th annual International Women’s Day Edition of the Read For Pixels campaign by donating a Mystery Book Box to help raise funds for The Pixel Project. NewCon Press will send this box anywhere in the world to one (1) generous donor only! More details are available on the Read For Pixels fundraising page.

If you’d like to have a chance to participate in live Q&As online with 12 other award-winning bestselling authors who will be having live Read For Pixels Google Hangouts, check out the schedule here.

And now, over to Ian…

Picture courtesy of Ian Whates.

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Ian Whates 31. Why is ending violence against women important to you and why did you decide to take action about it by supporting The Pixel Project

I believe violence against anybody to be wrong, particularly when it involves somebody in a position of perceived authority or strength victimising someone more vulnerable – be that in terms of gender, race, or social standing. I’ve never understood the drive to exercise power in this way. Women in different cultures around the world have frequently been cast as victims of the desire to dominate, to hurt, to control, and any undertaking such as the Pixel Project, dedicated to highlighting and opposing such behaviour, has to merit support.

 

2. You have very generously offered to donate a couple of Mystery Book Boxes – one for each of our Read For Pixels campaign in 2018 – in support of our anti-VAW work. As the founder of the acclaimed NewCon Press, what do you think publishers can do to help stop violence against women apart from raising funds?

There’s a temptation to say ‘not much’, but that would be shirking responsibility, and that word is key: responsibility. Publishers, particularly when they are as niche as my own, have very limited influence on the world, but that’s not the same as having no influence.  There is an onus on us to behave responsibly in selecting what we publish; by ensuring that unacceptable behaviour is either omitted entirely or shown to be unacceptable and portrayed in a light that vilifies both the act and those who resort to it, we can make a difference. A very small difference perhaps – a drop in the ocean – but the cumulative effect of enough drops over time can contribute to change.

 

3. As a prominent male author and editor, what do you think men in the publishing industry can do to help stop violence against women?

From the editing and publishing perspective, I can only echo much of what I said in response to the previous question. When something comes across my desk (or screen) that shocks me for the wrong reasons, I will always go back to the author and explain why I reacted in this way and why a given scene or phrase is not acceptable.

As a writer, a lot of what I write reflects my own beliefs, my own moral compass; I sometimes write a character or a scene intended to shock, but when doing so I always look to incorporate a payoff that delivers justice or restores balance. I think, as authors, we have a duty to consider moral issues while seeking to entertain, or thrill, or amuse. In many ways it’s a great privilege to present our work to readers in the hope and expectation that they will enjoy the results. With privilege comes responsibility – that word again. I am under no illusion that my writing is significant enough to educate anybody, but I have certainly used it to highlight issues, and if some aspect of a story should give a reader pause, or cause them to reassess, so much the better.  As writers, we have a responsibility; that doesn’t mean we should ever allow that to become a burden or govern our imagination, but neither can we afford to ignore it.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Read For Pixels 2018 (International Women’s Day Edition)

reveal-read-for-pixels-2018-slideJANUARY 25th, 2018 (WORLDWIDE): The Pixel Project , a 501(c)3 anti-Violence Against Women non-profit, is proud to announce their third International Women’s Day (IWD) Edition of their “Read For Pixels” campaign featuring live Google Hangouts with award-winning bestselling female authors in honour of International Women’s Day (IWD) 2018 and in support of the Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign which aims to raise US$1 million in aid of The Pixel Project. Participating authors include Amanda Hocking, Ann Aguirre, Beth Cato, Beverly Jenkins, Carrie Vaughn, Dana Cameron, Diana Rowland, Faith Hunter, Jodi Meadows, Lauren Oliver, Lynn Flewelling, and Molly Harper.

“Read For Pixels” IWD 2018 Google Hangout sessions will run on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings throughout March 2018. Each session will feature an author reading from one of their books and discussing their writing, why they support ending violence against women, and women in the media, geek culture, and popular culture. Each session will also include a live moderated Q&A session for fans and book lovers to ask their favourite authors questions in real time.

Participating authors have also generously donated a range of exclusive goodies to help The Pixel Project encourage fans and book lovers to donate to the Pixel Reveal campaign including: unique author-curated goodie bundles, signed first editions or book bundles by participating authors, sonnets written especially for donors, 1-to-1 Skype calls to talk about writing, tuckerisations, and more. Additional goodies are donated by NewCon Press, acclaimed authors Aliette de Bodard, Genevieve Valentine, Jacqueline Carey, Karen Rose, Kimberly Derting, Leigh Bardugo, Susan Dennard, and Nalini Singh, and up-and-coming YA author Juliana Spink Mills. Donations begin at as little as US$5 and the goodies are available to donors as “thank you” gifts and perks depending on the donation amount. Fundraising will take place in tandem with the Google Hangout series over the month of March.

“Violence against women is one of the most widespread and entrenched human rights violations in the world and The Pixel Project is delighted that so many acclaimed female authors have stepped up to join us in raising much-needed funds and widespread support for this cause,” said Regina Yau, Founder and President of The Pixel Project.  “Since its debut in 2014, over 80 authors have participated in the Read For Pixels campaign, collaborating with us to raise approximately US$48,000 for the cause and ignite online discussions about violence against women by fans and supporters. This is the 4th year we’re holding the International Women’s Day Edition of the campaign in recognition of the importance of the voices of female authors, a number of whom have faced gender-based violence in their lives. It is our hope that their support of the cause will inspire fans of their wonderful books and book lovers worldwide to not only donate generously, but also begin taking action to stop the violence in their communities wherever they are in the world.”

 

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 For more information about Read For Pixels, contact Regina Yau at info@thepixelproject.net or visit: http://is.gd/Read4Pixels.

About The Pixel Project (www.thepixelproject.net)

The Pixel Project is a complete virtual, volunteer-led global 501(c)3 nonprofit organisation whose mission is to raise awareness, funds and volunteer power for the cause to end violence against women at the intersection of of social media, online communities new technologies, and popular culture/the Arts. Their flagship initiative is the Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign which aims to turbo-charge global awareness about VAW using social media while raising US$1 million by getting a global audience to collectively unveil a million-pixel mystery collage of Celebrity Male Role Models at US$1 per pixel.

READ FOR PIXELS INTERVIEW: Charles de Lint

As part of The Pixel Project’s Read For Pixels campaign, we interview authors from genres as diverse as Science Fiction and Fantasy to Romance to Thrillers about why they support the movement to end violence against women and girls. 

In this interview, we talk to Charles de Lint who is the author of more than seventy adult, young adult, and children’s books. Renowned as one of the trailblazers of the modern fantasy genre, he is the recipient of the World Fantasy, Aurora, Sunburst, and White Pine awards, among others. Modern Library’s Top 100 Books of the 20th Century poll, conducted by Random House and voted on by readers, put eight of de Lint’s books among the top 100. Charles’ latest book, THE WIND IN HIS HEART, will be released on September 19th, 2017.

Charles will be taking part in the 4th annual Fall Edition of the Read For Pixels campaign by donating a one-of-a-kind perk to help raise funds for The Pixel Project – a perpetual place on his private mailing list through which he sends out a haiku a day to about 25 friends. This is available for one (1) generous donor only! More details will be available once the Read For Pixels campaign (including the fundraising page with this goodie on it) kicks off on 1st September 2017, so check out The Pixel Project’s Facebook page and Charles’ Facebook page  in September 2017 for the link to the fundraising page to donate to the campaign. If you’d like to have a chance to participate in live Q&As online with 12 other award-winning bestselling authors who will be having live Read For Pixels Google Hangouts, check out the schedule here.

And now, over to Charles…

Picture courtesy of Charles de Lint.

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cdl-300 dpi1. Why is ending violence against women important to you and why did you decide to take action about it by supporting The Pixel Project?

I don’t just believe in gender/religious/racial equality. I genuinely can’t understand why anyone would think it’s okay to bully or harm another human being. To do our part in eradicating violence, it’s incumbent upon each and every one of us to do everything in our power to stop this ugly behaviour by nurturing mutual respect and kindness using whatever platforms we have.

Mine is simply by portraying all the characters in my fiction as equals, with the strengths and weaknesses that any of us might possess. I don’t get preachy about it, but I’ve written plenty of fiction dealing (in part) with violence against women, kids, and marginalized people, and I’ve heard from many readers that they gained strength or felt empowered because they felt less alone and found role models to look up to.

I’ve also had the honour of hearing from counsellors and ministers who’ve used my fiction in their work, and everyday people—even prisoners—who’ve affirmed that my writing helped them look at issues in a different light. I can’t imagine a more gratifying response to one’s creative output, and it sustains me even when my writing hits all the inevitable potholes and such.

 

2. You have very generously offered a perpetual spot on your private Haiku mailing list to one generous donor in the upcoming Read For Pixels fundraiser. Aside from helping raise funds  to keep anti-violence against women work going, what do you think authors can do to help stop violence against women?

The interesting thing about stories is that they aren’t a passive art form. Well-written stories allow the reader to invest their imagination in the reading process and part of that investment is to immerse oneself in the lives of the characters you meet in the pages. Aside from great entertainment value, which is important to me, a major side benefit is that the reader can come away with a tangible understanding of how the “other” is not so different from oneself. Every “other,” from refugee to the opposite gender, can be understood and, more importantly, empathized with, if you can experience the world through their eyes.

Authors don’t need to lecture. They only need to depict truthful stories that, as they unwind, show readers that treating others as we’d like to be treated ourselves shouldn’t be considered freakish behaviour, but rather the norm.

 

 3. As a prominent male author, what do you think men can do to help stop violence against women?

It’s pretty basic. Just as we shouldn’t let racist comments from our friends and acquaintances slide, neither should misogynist comments or jokes go by without questioning them. You don’t have to get heavy about it. Even just saying, “I don’t understand,” as often as necessary to someone trying to justify it to you, sends a clear message that this attitude no longer flies.  Speak up when you become aware of something that’s not right, be it trolls on the Internet or some jerk on the street. And always be a rock for those who might need our support. Treat your partners and women friends with the genuine respect and honesty they deserve.

One more thing: read women writers and recommend their books to your male friends. What better way to get inside the workings of the female mind than to look at the world through their lens and voice? I believe it’s entirely possible to create a new normal and I can only do my best to set a positive example in my daily life and my creative work.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Read For Pixels 2017 (Fall Edition)

reveal-read-for-pixels-2017-fall-slideJuly 27th, 2017 (WORLDWIDE): The Pixel Project (www.thepixelproject.net), an anti-Violence Against Women non-profit, will be holding the fourth annual Fall Edition of their “Read For Pixels” campaign. “Read For Pixels” 2017 (Fall Edition) features live Google Hangouts with award-winning bestselling authors in support of the Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign (http://reveal.thepixelproject.net), which aims to raise US$1 million in aid of The Pixel Project. Participating authors include Adrian Tchaikovsky, Alafair Burke, Genevieve Valentine, Ilona Andrews, Isaac Marion, Kass Morgan, Ken Liu, Kristen Britain, Paul Tremblay, Sara Raasch, Soman Chainani, and Vicki Pettersson.

“Read For Pixels” 2017 (Fall Edition) Google Hangout sessions will run on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings from September 1st to October 1st 2017. Each session will feature an author reading from one of their books and discussing women and girls in their books, why they support ending violence against women, and women in the media, geek culture, and popular culture. Each session will also include a live moderated Q&A session for fans and book lovers to ask their favourite authors questions in real time.

Participating authors have also generously donated a range of exclusive goodies to help The Pixel Project encourage fans and book lovers to donate to the Pixel Reveal campaign including: Exclusive swag bags and book bundles, signed first editions or special editions of participating authors’ books, micro stories written especially for donors, a chance to be a minor character in their upcoming books, and more. There are also exclusive goodies courtesy of Aliette de Bodard, Charles de Lint, Dan Wells, Karen Rose, Kendare Blake, Steven Erikson, and more. In addition, the Berkley and Ace/Roc/DAW imprints at Penguin Random House are each donating a mystery book box. Donations begin at as little as US$5 and the goodies are available to donors as “thank you” gifts and perks depending on the donation amount. Fundraising will take place on Rally Up in tandem with the Google Hangout series over the month of September 2017.

“Violence against women is one of the most widespread and entrenched human rights violations in the world and The Pixel Project is delighted that so many acclaimed authors have stepped up to join us in raising much-needed funds and widespread support for this cause,” said Regina Yau, Founder and President of The Pixel Project.  “To date, the Read For Pixels campaign have collectively raised almost US$44,000 for the cause and ignited online discussions about violence against women by fans and supporters. We will continue to hold the Fall Edition of “Read For Pixels” annually in September as part of our ongoing programme of Read For Pixels events and activities. It is our hope that the authors’ support of the cause will inspire fans of their wonderful books and book lovers worldwide to not only donate generously, but also begin taking action to stop the violence in their communities wherever they are in the world.”

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For more information about Read For Pixels, contact Regina Yau or Maria del Rio at info@thepixelproject.net or visit: http://is.gd/Read4Pixels.

About The Pixel Project (www.thepixelproject.net)

The Pixel Project is a complete virtual, volunteer-led global 501(c)3 nonprofit organisation whose mission is to raise awareness, funds and volunteer power for the cause to end violence against women using a combination of social media, new technologies, and popular culture/the Arts. Their flagship initiative is the Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign which aims to turbo-charge global awareness about VAW using social media while raising US$1 million by getting a global audience to collectively unveil a million-pixel mystery collage of Celebrity Male Role Models at US$1 per pixel.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2017: Cassandra Pullman, 20, United Kingdom

The Pixel Project is proud to present our fourth annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2017. The annual campaign runs throughout the month of May 2017 and features an interview per day with a survivor of any form of violence against women (VAW) including domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, stalking,  online violence against women, female genital mutilation, forced/child marriage, sex trafficking, breast ironing etc. 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 21st Survivor Stories interview is with Cassandra Pullman from the United Kingdom.

TRIGGER WARNING: The first two Q&As in this interview may be distressing for some Child Sexual Abuse survivors.

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The Survivor Bio:

My name is Cassandra Pullman and I am a survivor. I am also a proud care leaver from England but I now currently live in Scotland. I am 20 years old and I am currently a college student, hoping to go into Psychology and Social Work. I really want to do talks to speak out and help others who have been abused in any way. I am currently in the starting stages of writing a book on my abuse and about my recovery. My hobbies/interests are reading crime fiction and survivor stories. I enjoy helping others out with problems such as mental health and abuse. I enjoy country walks and camping outdoors in the forest and surrounding areas.

 

cassandra-pullman1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence (this may include domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation etc)?

I was severely sexually, physically and mentally abused and neglected by my parents as a child. My parents were very aggressive and violent towards me.

My first memory of the abuse was after my first birthday when my father first sexually assaulted me and when my mother first beat me up. Between the ages of 1 and 5 my father would rape me (with his hands and objects) whenever he could and my mother would stand by and encourage him. When I was 6 my father raped me (with his genitals) and continued to do so until I was 12. The reason he stopped was because my mother told him I had started my period. My mother was equally as evil, causing physical/mental harm and neglect throughout my life for as long as I can remember.

They never cared nor did they ever love me. I was an unloved child, who was like discarded trash that never quite made it to the bin. They would do unspeakable things to me that would haunt me for most of my childhood. I would sometimes wear makeup to school to hide the bruises. I also used to run away and self-harm. I believed that happiness was a day without pain and torture.

 

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

I escaped first by running away from my parents and then from the school. When that didn’t work I would self-harm. At first it was for myself but then I realised the school was finally taking me seriously.

I told my school about the abuse I suffered at home but never in full detail. Eventually social services got involved – when I was 15 I finally had the courage to tell social services what was happening at home but even then I was scared to tell them everything and to this day I still am.

After I showed and proved there was significant risk I was able to place myself in care at the age of 13 with the aid of my wonderful social worker and solicitor.

 

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

I underwent a variety of therapies as a child: I had CBT from CAMHS aged 11-12 and then at 16. What helped was learning about other survivors, hearing their stories and igniting myself to do the same. I learned so much about myself which I can put into practice to aid my recovery.

Helplines were also an amazing resource because if I ever needed someone I would pick one at random and call to talk about my past, present and the future.

Truth be told, there is no one who knows the full story of my childhood. So one aspect that will help heal and rebuild my life is when I finish writing my book and it is published. Then I can tell every single detail of my story.

With my recovery, I am now able to live the life that I want to have, I am able to change my life, change my fate and change my story. I can do what I want with my life without living in fear of my horrendous past. I can now move on and forward and conquer anything.

 

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

Don’t blame yourself – The abuse you suffered was never your fault, not now and not ever. Whatever the reasons for the violence or abuse, it will never be justified.

I would also suggest that you speak out to get help, no matter who your abuser is or what the circumstances are; find people, contact helplines and speak to the police.

Finally, it’s important to share your experiences with someone you trust who will be there for you, listen and give you the right support. It can be daunting and it will be scary but if you keep it bottled up you will eventually explode and that explosion will not just be deadly for you but for others around you. Talking about what has happened to you can make an enormous difference and can feel like a great weight has been lifted from you.

 

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

We can end violence against women by destroying the stigma and the taboo that surrounds it and also by stopping victim shaming. Education is key – teaching, telling, speaking, blogging, writing, shouting and reading are the best ways to show and explain what violence and abuse is and what we can all do to eradicate it.

Society needs to stop ignoring this epidemic and and to take action including:

  • Providing an advocate for victims who have not found their voice.
  • Having localised support in place as well as significant national and international resources will help a great deal.
  • Providing more helplines, posters on public transport and people doing talks in educational families.

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because:

  • They help women who have suffered from different types of abuse from all over the world and I too want to end violence.
  • They provide a wealth of information about violence against women to learn, engage and share with others.
  • They help and show others that victims are not alone and that one day not only will they be a survivor but also a warrior.
  • They have “The Men’s Room” which engages with men to help end the violence towards women. It truly shows there is no sexism and allows men to be involved.

I also what to say thank you for allowing me to have this opportunity to share my story through the Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project. Not only will Survivor Stories engage and help others, it gives survivors an immensely powerful voice. This will change and empower other women all around the world.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2017: Giovanna Ibarra, 31, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our fourth annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2017. The annual campaign runs throughout the month of May 2017 and features an interview per day with a survivor of any form of violence against women (VAW) including domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, stalking,  online violence against women, female genital mutilation, forced/child marriage, sex trafficking, breast ironing etc. 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 20th Survivor Stories interview is with Giovanna Ibarra from the USA.

TRIGGER WARNING: The first two Q&As in this interview may be distressing for some Domestic Violence and Rape survivors.

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The Survivor Bio:

Giovanna Ibarra is an organiser and writer with over five years of experience in management and coordination of creative campaigns and communications for nongovernmental organisations. She is a survivor of rape and domestic violence who turned her experience into creative campaigns involving music, poetry and art aimed at raising awareness about crimes against humanity, human trafficking, modern day slavery, and violence against women. She has recently been doing victim and survivor advocacy in Mexico.

 

gia-ibarra-31. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence (this may include domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation etc)?

As a child, I was molested – first by a neighbour, later by close family members. When I decided to speak up about each of these incidents, I was not believed, and was told not to mention the events again.

In my late teens, the night my boyfriend raped me at knifepoint was when the coercion, manipulation and daily abuse began. His violent rage perpetuated regular incidents of physical, mental and emotional abuse, torture and rape which ended with me landing in the ER three years later. The police reported the gun he used to attack me was never found in the vehicle – they said I imagined the weapon.

I attended his sentencing on my own. The threats he made by phone were not counted against him during his trial. He was ultimately sentenced to only two-and-a-half years instead of ten through twenty five years for kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault with a weapon.

As I walked out of the court room that morning, an officer said to me: “You’re one of the lucky ones, you should be grateful even for a short sentence.” It took me many years to understand what he meant.

 

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

My abuser wanted to end both our lives through murder-suicide. However, he passed out in the driver’s seat from a heavy drug and alcohol overdose. I managed to sneak out of the car and call the police. Most of the officers who turned up did not believe me but one officer realised that I had been raped, was pregnant and had begun to bleed internally. That officer drove me to the nearest ER. “He saved your life,” the doctors at the ER said. ‘Had you arrived just thirty minutes later, you would have both died.”

After that my abuser was jailed, I was eventually forced to move to California on short notice, leaving behind everything and everyone I knew in Texas due to continued threats to myself and my family, including what could have been another attempted kidnapping. The officer investigating the case was unable to locate the van the kidnappers used and recommended that I move out of the state for my own safety.

 

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

Initially I was in denial and shock. As time went by, I began to fall into a severe depression and dissociation as a way to cope with everything. Then I met the late Steve Graham, the founder of ACT (Against Child Trafficking), who taught me that we can turn our suffering into positive action. Giving back to society, faith in God and music sustained and healed me. The support of my family and close friends helped me to slowly rebuild my life.

I also became my own victim advocate after the Texas Department of Criminal Justice refused to grant a new restraining order that could be used in California if needed. They said I was on my own and in charge of my own safety. My advocacy led to several months’ extension of my abuser’s prison term in addition to receiving an apology over the phone from the director of deportations at the Texas/Mexico border for not having checked for prior incidents of violence committed by my abuser. Their mistake could have cost me my life.

I have since found ways to help others through creative advocacy.

 

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

To young women who are dating someone who they feel unsafe with: Listen to your intuition and leave the relationship before it gets violent because it often does.

To the women already in a manipulative or coercive and violent relationship: Ask for help immediately. Remove yourself from the relationship, from the environment you are currently living in, and place distance between yourself and the abuser. Don’t be afraid to let go and never look back.

Educate yourself about abuse. The mistake I made was my lack of education and awareness about the issue. The Pixel Project offers more information on the signs of an abusive relationship and ways to escape and receive support.

 

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

Ending violence against women is a cycle that requires understanding that women and girls have the right to life, health, education and basic life skills, mentoring and support.

The real work begins at home, in schools, and the community to educate young boys and girls to respect and value one another. We need to teach at-risk girls and women about the signs of an abusive relationship in schools, at the local clinics they attend, and wherever they may otherwise be able to receive support.

We also need better training for police and first responders that still believe that a woman needs to look abused or display certain signs in order to receive support in order for an arrest to be made.

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

The Pixel Project provides women and girls worldwide with access to vital life-saving online resources and information. I myself learned about coercion and domestic violence through the Pixel Project’s website.

Their founder Regina Yau and all-volunteer team have supported my healing journey through their online activism campaigns to educate the public about violence against women while providing positive and empowering messages for millions of survivors. I have also volunteered with Pixel Project to support their Music for Pixels campaigns.

 

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2017: Honey LeBlanc, 45, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our fourth annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2017. The annual campaign runs throughout the month of May 2017 and features an interview per day with a survivor of any form of violence against women (VAW) including domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, stalking,  online violence against women, female genital mutilation, forced/child marriage, sex trafficking, breast ironing etc. 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 19th Survivor Stories interview is with Honey LeBlanc from the USA. 

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The Survivor Bio:

I am a wife and mother of four children. This year marks my twentieth year as a teacher and my twenty-second year free from domestic violence. My passion is a summer camp for children and adults with special needs that I helped start 3 summers ago. The majority of my free time is spent doing service projects and events for people with special needs or with teenagers.

 

honey-leblanc_cropped1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence (this may include domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation etc)?

My first husband was an abuser. It started out mild but quickly escalated to actual violence.

The physical violence started when I was pregnant, but the emotional abuse started well before I became pregnant. He was the classic abuser: started out flattering me, moved to isolating me through controlling behaviors, escalated to physical violence, and ended up with me wondering if I would make it out alive.

 

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

One day, when my daughter was 2 I had simply reached the point where something had to give. I was working at the police department as a desk clerk and realised that it simply couldn’t go on. I had friends in the department who didn’t fall for my lies about my split lip or bruise. They gave me the courage, or maybe I was so deeply ashamed, that I decided to do something about it.

 

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

After kicking my husband out, I began reporting the behaviours to the police. I didn’t allow myself to fall for his lies about how sorry he was. I followed through with the divorce and fought him every step of the way for custody of my daughter. Standing up for myself helped me to realise that I was strong enough to get out. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.

Two years later, when I realised that he was repeating the cycle with his new wife, I called her and tried to get her to leave. I had remarried by that time and my new husband (with whom I am about to celebrate 19 totally violence-free years of marriage) offered to go get her from the house while my ex was out. At that point she refused to leave, but the seed must have been planted because a year or so later she called me when she too had met her breaking point. Together, she and I, along with my husband, have raised our daughter. We have forged a new, albeit totally non-traditional, family that does not involve violence.

 

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

I would say that you are strong enough. You are good enough. You can find your own way. Find people who are good for you, who believe you and believe in you. Report the violence every single time and keep records.

 

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

Part of ending violence against women is empowering women and girls to speak up for themselves and to realise that they aren’t alone.

I tell my story to my students when the opportunity arises (in a way that is appropriate for the classroom), and every time I tell it without fail a student says, “You don’t seem like the type of woman that happens to.” I always tell them that there is no type of woman that it happens to.

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support the Pixel Project because it is so very important to get our stories out there so that other women know they are not alone and that you can escape from the situation.

 

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2017: Trisa Mattson, 50, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our fourth annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2017. The annual campaign runs throughout the month of May 2017 and features an interview per day with a survivor of any form of violence against women (VAW) including domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, stalking,  online violence against women, female genital mutilation, forced/child marriage, sex trafficking, breast ironing etc. 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 18th  Survivor Stories interview is with Trisa Mattson from the USA.

TRIGGER WARNING: The first Q&A in this interview may be distressing for some Childhood Sexual Abuse survivors.

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The Survivor Bio:

My name is Trisa Mattson and I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I’ve gone through a tremendous amount of pain in my 50 years but have also overcome abuse, gone on to have 3 children of whom I am very proud. I enjoy sports, the outdoors, crochet, writing poems and my biography, and I like to dance. I am working on my educational goals starting with my GED and then continuing on to college thereafter. 

 

dsc_04511. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence (this may include domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation etc)?

When I was a young child (8-10) I was sexually abused by my stepdad at night while my mom was at work. He’d look at pornographic magazines and then use me to act out the images he saw in those magazines.

I was afraid to tell my mom, I thought she would blame me. When I eventually got the courage to tell her she did blame me as I had feared. I was devastated and began to act out, getting into trouble both at school and at home. Throughout my childhood I was beaten with a belt both across my back and face, no one intervened. I was bounced from home to home which made me feel like I wasn’t loved nor could I understand why my mom didn’t believe me. I hated her for that.

When I was 16, I ended up living with my aunt and uncle during which my uncle began sexually abusing me. At this same time my biological father started picking me up from their home, he’d drive me out in the country, sexually abuse me in his truck camper and photograph me. He threatened to hurt me if I told anyone. I was terrified, being sexually abused by both my uncle and biological father.

 

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

After about one-and-a-half years of this abuse I finally found the courage to confide in a trusted high school friend about the abuse. She in turn told a teacher at school who reported it to law enforcement.

They began to investigate and I was placed into protective police custody. At this same time, my brother, who had begun living with my biological father, found the sexually abusive photographs taken of me by my biological father and turned the pictures in to the police. My biological father was criminally charged and later convicted, sentenced to one year of probation, little jail time. Later he went on to abuse my sister, my niece, and my nephews, which he was not convicted for. He abused my stepbrother and was convicted of lewd conduct with minor, again a light jail sentence with probation – a slap on the wrist.

He continued his abuse and was later charged with 2 felony counts for sexual abuse of a non-relative – a 16/17 year old. For this last case, my biological father is currently in prison in Idaho and is due to be released in October 2019.

 

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

I began seeking help from my local rape crisis center in 1993 when I was a young mother. There I attended support groups and began counselling.

Years later I went on to confront my biological father when he was in jail for the crime of abusing my step-bother. He defiantly told me that I deserved everything that happened to me. I was traumatised further by his blame. This moment was a turning point for me, and I devoted myself to healing. I made a promise to myself and others that I was going to devote myself to stopping him, protecting others, and changing this world.

As circumstances would have it, there was fresh concrete about to be poured on the sidewalk outside the rape crisis center. I took those photos he took of me and I burned those images, placing their remnant ashes on the ground and let the new concrete pour over the top of them. Sealing them helped me heal.

Soon after this turning point I began writing poems to express my feelings. They help me to heal too. Years later my poems lead me to write a book, the story of my life and my healing. These writings make me stronger, they give me voice, they help me convey my feelings, my courage, and strength.

 

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

I want to assure other women or girls in situations like this that:

  • YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
  • It is not your fault.
  • Do NOT give up – keep fighting for justice.
  • You will eventually see the light out of the dark maze you find yourself in now.
  • You will eventually be able to stand your ground.
  • Hold your head up high – the shame will go away.
  • Set some personal goals and go after them.  This will help you get your self esteem back and you can hold your head up high again.

 

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

Wow! Where do we start?

When victims are believed, and speak out while standing their ground, eventually society will have no choice but to start facing the truth about violence against women.

We need to have a justice system with a stronger stance against violence against women and children, offering more substantial sanctions against perpetrators of violence thus conveying the message that this violence is unacceptable in our communities.

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I believe it is the telling of survivor stories like mine and others that will help other victims who are fighting and are lost in the darkness of abuse. To encourage others that there is light beyond the darkness is my own personal commitment, the reason I have written a book and poems myself, and The Pixel Project is one more way to get those stories out.