Regina

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THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2017: Tammy Enlow, 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 16th  Survivor Stories interview is with Tammy Enlow 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:

I am a 45-year-old mother of four.  I was in an abusive marriage/relationship for right at twenty years.  I have been away from my abuser for seven years now, and it’s been the hardest, best time in my life.  I have and am happier than I’ve ever been.  I have become a resident advocate at our local women’s shelter and have started my own project to help abuse survivors.  It’s called The Freedom From Fear Project, and I help domestic violence survivors obtain registered service animals to help them on their journey.  I have also returned to college to finish my psychology degree that was started many years ago.

 

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

My personal experience is that I am a survivor of an almost-20-year-long abusive marriage.  My ex-husband abused me in every way possible over the course of that time frame, and I am very blessed to still be here.

He would knock me around almost daily and he attempted to kill me multiple times.

Like I say I am very blessed to still be here.

 

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

When it was time to separate from my abuser, I was terrified, but the years of abuse also had me to the point where I no longer cared what happened. I was just done.  It got to the point where there was nothing more he could do to me, except kill me. I made him leave, I honestly didn’t care at that point, I could not live that way anymore and if it was to be the end of me, then so be it. I wouldn’t be miserable anymore.

In the beginning, I had to take all steps by myself as my family didn’t know fully what was going on.  After a short period, my family and friends all stepped up to help, as much as they possibly could; though I was the one that had to do it for me.  I trekked through and made it all work out.

 

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

I spent a lot of time finding me, I did a lot of volunteer work to keep myself busy, I started back to school, I stayed by myself for quite a while, no dating or anything, I had to recreate me.

Initially I was a single mom with four children and one income, trying to make everything work out, and it did.  I ended up in counselling for a short period, it was offered for free for domestic violence survivors, so I utilised it.  It helped a lot and it helped me realise the steps I needed to take.

 

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

Get out and don’t waste years of your life like I did.  You’ll be okay and life will rebuild itself with time.

 

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

Educate educate and educate, and end victim shaming, people don’t realise how much that plays into women not speaking up.

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

Anything to educate and help stop this epidemic is a wonderful thing which I full on support!

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2017: Hayley Paige, 33, 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 15th Survivor Stories interview is with Hayley Paige from the United Kingdom.

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

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The Survivor Bio:

I am a 33-year-old single mother to two incredible daughters, and a domestic violence survivor. Living in the UK, I work from home as a self-employed copy editor and publishing consultant. When I’m not working, I love to spend quality time with my little girls and all of our animals (5 adult and 4 baby bunnies, 2 cats and a hedgehog!) building positive happy memories, and losing myself in a book. I am also a keen writer, with my next fiction due to be published in the winter of 2017.    

 

hayley-paige-21. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence (this may include domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation etc)?

I was a victim of domestic violence who endured mental and emotional abuse for a five-year period spanning 2008–2012. During this time, I was told that my family and friends had shown they didn’t care for me, that any trauma I had experienced was actually nothing, and that I would never find anyone else because I had a daughter from a past relationship. I was body-shamed and made to feel like I needed to improve various aspects of myself.

The physical violence started in August 2008. From this point until I left in December 2012, I was dragged and thrown around rooms, chased and forced to lock myself away or hide, strangled, choked, punched, threatened, thrown around by my hair, spat at, had objects thrown at me, such as a large pepper grinder, and very viciously beaten during a number of sustained attacks. One particular incident in 2011 nearly killed me, and is the only episode of violence I ever reported to police. Others caused miscarriage, a broken wrist, and mental and emotional side effects.

In addition to the violence, my conversations were, at times, recorded on dictaphones (without my knowledge), and I was verbally abused as a result of what I had been ‘caught’ saying.

 

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

After marrying and having a baby with him, I somehow managed to further isolate myself and my family by moving abroad. It was during this time that, through various episodes, I found clarity. I was in the most beautiful country and house, with two beautiful daughters, earning good money, and unable to enjoy any of it as a result of fear.

One day, he said something awful to me in front of my then-9 year old. It was the last straw. After speaking to my eldest daughter, I emailed my best friend and sister back in the UK, explained what had been happening, and told them I needed to get back to the UK. I told my husband our marriage was over. He didn’t react, which was commonplace. I knew the tears would come at some point — his tried and tested way of getting me back.

My best friend put me in contact with an estate agent friend of hers who helped me to secure a piece of property. My girls and I then moved into what was a run-down, horrible little house in a bad area of the UK, and we slowly started to free ourselves from fear.

 

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

I slowly began to talk to people, to peel back the layers of lies I had told over the years to protect him, and found therapy and healing in discussing some of the worst ordeals with people close to me.

I enrolled in a domestic violence course, which sought to validate victims’ thoughts and feelings surrounding incidents, especially those viewed as ‘trivial’, and which taught how to identify negative behaviours should another man ever be in my future.

I accepted the help of Victim Support services and had my property ‘hardened’ with locks, alarms and a police marker to help us to feel protected.

I focused my time and energy on my daughters, on healing their wounds, on building precious memories that would go some way to masking over the difficult ones. I sought counselling for myself and my eldest daughter, and I reconnected with friends and family I had become estranged from.

I slowly started to love myself, despite the flaws he had made me see. And, with time, I began to recognise that the way he had behaved was nothing to do with me but was all to do with him.

 

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

You don’t deserve it. No, you didn’t goad him. You didn’t prod him. You didn’t do something that you knew would make him angry. Repeat: It isn’t your fault. This is him. And you deserve more.

Leave. Make plans to leave now. Do anything; start the ball rolling. Squirrel a little money away, make a phone call when you’re safe to do so, reach out. Don’t stay. I know he cries and he begs and pleads. I know he says he’s sorry, and you love him so he knows how to make you forgive him. But don’t stay. It’s a never-ending circle. It won’t get better, not until you leave—and then I promise you, it will.

And yes, your children deserve a family. But not this one. A bright, safe, happy one, without fear.

The fear surrounding leaving is probably the most worrying thing but also is a fear that is far greater than actual reality. As soon as you start seeking help and putting in place a plan to leave, your support network will grow and you will find courage. There is strength in numbers.

 

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

Through education, through speaking out, through the sharing of stories. Through listening without judgement; by stopping the blame culture.

I believe children should be educated from a very young age as to what is and isn’t acceptable. Any kind of hurt isn’t acceptable in any kind of relationship, romantic or otherwise —  physical hurt, emotional hurt, psychological or mental. We need to teach that negative behaviours don’t show love.

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

The Pixel Project helps women of domestic violence to feel like they’re not alone — because they’re not. It shows, in various ways, that any behaviour we have put up with or excused isn’t acceptable. And to be told that is empowering.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2017: Martha Wells, 52, 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 14th  Survivor Stories interview is with Martha Wells from the USA.

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

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The Survivor Bio:

Martha Wells is a science fiction and fantasy writer whose first novel was published in 1993.  Her most recent series are The Books of the Raksura for Night Shade Books, and The Murderbot Diaries for Tor.com.  She has also written short stories, media tie-ins for Star Wars and Stargate: Atlantis, YA fantasies, and non-fiction. Ms. Wells’ picture is (c) Igor Kraguljac.

 

marthawells_byigorkraguljacsmall1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence (this may include domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation etc)?

When I was in college, I was stalked by a former male friend. This was someone I had known since my freshman year and trusted. He decided he wanted to date me, and when I didn’t want to, he left me a note threatening to kill me. I reported it to the police, who talked to him and told me they thought they had scared him and hoped that he would leave me alone. He convinced several mutual friends that I had been his girlfriend and that we had had a sexual relationship, and that I was cheating on him. He used mutual friends to keep tabs on me and pressure me into “coming back” to this relationship with him that I had never had.

 

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

I think I was just lucky. Before the stalking started, I only saw him when I was with other people. I noticed that his behaviour toward me had changed, and that he was trying to get me alone. I started to avoid him without really knowing why. I didn’t really understand what was happening until he threatened to kill me. He attended the same SF/F conventions and events as I did, and I had to be extremely careful to avoid him and not be trapped alone with him anywhere.

 

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

It just took time. It took me a long time to be able to trust people again, especially after seeing how many of the people I thought were friends either didn’t take my fear of him seriously, believed that I had had a sexual relationship with him or just didn’t seem to believe I had the right to refuse him since he “loved” me so much.

This was in the 1980s, and stalking wasn’t really understood at that time the way it was now, so there weren’t a lot of options for help. Almost every girl I knew in college was stalked at some point, either by strangers or men that they knew.

 

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

Try to listen to your instincts, and if something someone says or does worries or frightens you, don’t try to rationalise or ignore it.

If a friend doesn’t believe that you’ve been stalked or tries to get you to “make up” with someone who frightens you, then that person is not your friend.

 

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

I think education, especially about consent, starting as early as possible, can help a lot.  Teach kids to respect each other as people, teach boys that girls are not somehow less deserving of bodily autonomy than they are.

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

It’s an important source of support, information, and help to women who badly need it.  If we don’t talk about violence towards women and make people aware of the violence women face often on a daily basis, we have no hope of ending it.

Editor’s note: Watch Martha talk about feminism, surviving stalking, and eradicating violence against women in our Read For Pixels Google Hangout recording below.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2017: Brittany Barlow, 26, 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 13th Survivor Stories interview is with Brittany Barlow 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:

My name is Brittany. I am a survivor who is  huge family person – my family is one of the best things in my life! I am pursuing a degree in healthcare management. I love photography, to read and play volleyball and soccer.  

 

brittany-barlow1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence (this may include domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation etc)?

About 3.5 years ago, I left an extremely abusive marriage. I went through mental, verbal, emotional and physical abuse. I was sexually abused. I had my life threatened on multiple occasions. I would have been killed had I stayed.

I was with my ex-husband for 3 years before marrying him. I was only 19 when I met him, and 21 when we were married. There was emotional and verbal abuse during this time, but the physical abuse did not start until we were married and started living together: He called me every name in the book; he convinced me no one cared about me; he convinced me that I was incompetent, stupid and worthless; he was extremely controlling and isolated me from everyone I knew.

The man I thought loved me turned into a monster and hurt me beyond what I thought was capable from another human being.

 

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

My ex-husband was in the military. We were stationed in Guam, which was halfway across the world from everyone I knew and loved.

I had multiple friends offering me plane tickets to come home (which were at least $1800). I thought things would start getting better because he was punished for what he had done to me. However, things actually got worse. By some act of God I was able to leave in July.

In the military, there is a programme for military personnel and dependents in which you can hop on a stand-by flight to other bases for free. It was a miracle my ex didn’t prevent me from going. I looked at this trip as a test in some way. I had hoped that he would see what life was like if I wasn’t there and would stop hurting me. Within two days of me leaving the emotional and verbal abuse started up again and continued every day for weeks.

I felt totally lost until I went to a church sermon. In that sermon I felt peace I never felt before and after that I just knew what I needed to do. I filed for divorce in October and was surrounded by family who supported me in every decision I made. I am very blessed and lucky to have gotten out the way I did.

 

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

I am currently still healing from my abusive relationship. I have been diagnosed with PTSD. Every day is a challenge, but it’s a challenge I wouldn’t have had had I stayed. I’m grateful for that.

I have done A LOT of things:

  • I have read countless books, including Codependent No More by Melodie Beadie, Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft, and Beyond Boundaries by John Townsend and Henry Cloud. I recommend all of these books, especially Codependent No More. I give this book a lot of credit for helping me finding the strength within myself to leave.
  • I have tried acupuncture.
  • I go to therapy weekly.
  • I also have a blog in which I have shared my story and continue to share my healing and recovery. I have found great amount of healing in giving myself a voice and it has also helped others.

 

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

First off, it is hard. You feel alone. You feel lost and don’t know what to do. You feel ashamed. You feel like no one cares. You don’t know you’re being abused. You’re scared to bring it up because people are just going to tell you to leave, but don’t get it’s not that easy. People get mad at you for not leaving because they just don’t understand. At times, you’re controlled and isolated and cannot make connections to people. It’s hard. It’s very very hard and what you are feeling is totally normal.

I suggest reading blogs of people who have gone through similar things. I suggest reaching out to those people. I suggest if you know someone who has been through similar things to reach out to them. If you have someone you trust reach out to them. I suggest calling the domestic violence hotline.

I suggest reading Co-dependent No More. It helped me break my attachment to my ex-husband.

I suggest seeking a therapist, just for you. I don’t think couples counselling works in abusive relationships and can actually cause more manipulation.

I suggest researching abusive tactics. I suggest making a secret safety plan to leave. Call the cops any time there is physical violence.

 

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

I think being more vocal and sharing facts and dispelling myths could be helpful in ending violence against women. People are uninformed and unless you have been through things like domestic violence, people just don’t understand.

I think teaching teens about domestic violence could be helpful because so many young women don’t know the signs. I didn’t have a class about domestic violence until I was in college. Young women are very vulnerable to domestic violence (18-24 most common age) and by teaching what to look out for could prevent and save a lot of lives.

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because I want to end violence against women. It’s a scary thing to think that 1 out of 3 women will face some sort of violence. That could be my sister, my aunt, my mom, my best friend. I don’t want anyone to suffer through the things that I did.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2017: Chantel Plautz, 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 12th  Survivor Stories interview is with Chantel Plautz from the USA.

TRIGGER WARNING: The first Q&A in this interview may be distressing for some Rape, Sexual Assault, and Child Sexual Abuse survivors.

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The Survivor Bio:

Chantel Plautz is a child of the Living God and a survivor of multiple-instance sexual assault, rape, and child sexual abuse. She serves on the mission field in KS, MO, and NE (USA) as an abolitionist missionary, a Christian Counselor, and an advocate for victims of human sex trafficking, sexual assault and child sexual abuse. Chantel is the CEO and Founder of Hope For The Soul Ministries. She is also a trained Stephen Minister and Stephen Ministry Leader, holds a certificate in Christian (Biblical) Counseling from Light University Online, and is a member of American Association of Christian Counselors and Women Speakers Association. Chantel was born in Denver, CO, and grew up in Nebraska, Oklahoma and Kansas. When she is not mentoring, counseling, ministering, speaking, preaching, teaching or writing, Chantel enjoys reading, going on nature hikes, making jewelry, watching football, spending time with her family and friends, and celebrating and supporting her four amazing godchildren—Jocelyn, Jaeden, Lucas and Riley.

 

chantel-plautz_cropped1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence (this may include domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation etc)?

I am a survivor of multiple-instance sexual assault and child sexual abuse, which occurred throughout an over 20-year period of my life, at the hands of multiple perpetrators — male and female. All were people I knew.

Between the ages of 6 and 12, I endured repeated sexual abuse, as well as exposure to pornography and sexually compromising situations.

At the age of 16, I was sexually assaulted on multiple occasions and at the hands of one perpetrator. In hindsight, I realise this perpetrator groomed me. Following these instances of assault, I was made to feel as though the abuse was my fault.

Between the ages of 16 and 28, I was sexually assaulted by multiple perpetrators, exposed to pornography and strip clubs (in the early years), and subjected to sexually compromising situations, all through coercive and manipulative means.

At the age of 25, two people raped me. After work, I had been out to dinner with a group of friends, and I later woke up in the midst of sexual assault. I believe someone drugged me to the point that I did not know my whereabouts and, therefore, could not defend myself.

At the age of 28, someone I was dating exposed me to pornography in the midst of sexual assault.

 

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

The sexual assault and abuse stopped because I eventually moved to another state or town, I left the area I was in (as being there was only a temporary trip), I quit the job I was working at, I ended the relationship, or the perpetrator(s) moved away from where I was living at the time. In one particular instance, the abuse just stopped — I do not know why, but I am so thankful it did.

On the other hand, the memories and feelings related to each instance of assault and abuse haunted me — I could not manage to escape them. As a direct result of the abuse, I was confused and filled with false shame, blame, guilt, and self-doubt. For many years, I lived in constant fear, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex traumatic stress disorder (CTSD). Many different things triggered and exacerbated the deep-seated emotions and feelings I was experiencing. Over time, I became numb and completely gutted.

 

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

Sexual assault affected virtually every area of my life — relationships, educational endeavors, business pursuits. However, I was eventually able to find the courage to seek help, further my education, and start a new career.

September 2002 — I completed Stephen Ministry and Stephen Ministry Leadership training and began serving in volunteer ministry (until June 2013).

July-November 2011 — I received counselling through a local sexual assault center. I purged and reconciled related memories and feelings, created and maintained healthy boundaries, and climbed out of the deep, dark hole I had been in for a majority of my life. I established myself as an adult in the present dealing with the sexual assault and abuse of the past. With the help of Jesus, I have learned to love, trust and HOPE again — I have reached a point of healing and wholeness, forgiveness and reconciliation, peace and contentment.

May 2012 — I wrote an article, which was published in a sexual assault center newsletter.

June 2012 — I began serving in full-time ministry and missions.

March-October 2013 — I completed Christian (Biblical) Counselor training.

Presently — I am completing a book entitled My Joy Comes in the Morning: Finding Hope and Spiritual Healing from Sexual Assault and Child Sexual Abuse.

 

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

You are not alone in your suffering, and you are not required to suffer in silence. Share. Learn. Forgive. Release. Heal. It takes time to heal, but I encourage you to stay focused on bringing healing and wholeness to the broken and captive places inside of you.

I have found these activities to be very helpful in my own healing process:

  • Practicing various forms of art — jewellery-making, drawing, painting;
  • Taking long walks — in the park, in the woods, in the country;
  • Journaling — this allowed me to put a voice to the pain and suffering (in writing), which I then shared (aloud) with someone I could trust.

I want you to know that you are beautiful and precious, and you add value to this world. The sexual assault and abuse you endured is not your fault — you did not do anything to cause it. You were a victim, but you are a survivor. You deserve to love yourself and others, and for someone to love you, completely and without abuse of any kind. Healing from PTSD, CTSD, or anything else related to sexual assault or child sexual abuse is difficult, but it is entirely possible — I am living proof. Keep. Moving. Forward.

 

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

We need to educate everyone on the atrocity of sexual violence. I believe men and women need to have an active role in creating awareness. Additionally, we can petition lawmakers to pass laws and form public policy that punishes the perpetrators, not the victims — we will not allow actions without swift and significant consequences.

We need to advocate for victims and survivors, giving them a voice until they can find and use their own, and remind them that they are not alone in their suffering. We need to send the message that we will not tolerate violence against women or children — sexual or otherwise — anywhere, or at any time. One time is one time too many, and victims deserve to seek justice!

We need to focus on prevention. We need to teach our sons and daughters how to treat others, with love and respect and not as a commodity or a means through which one achieves selfish gratification. We need to love, not abuse, one another. We need to challenge the cultural norms, because when we find and address the source of false beliefs and ritualistic mindsets, we can achieve culture change and stop the insidious cycle of assault and abuse.

Together, we can make a difference!

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because they create awareness, encourage difficult conversations and advocate for victims of violence against women and girls. They also provide survivors with a safe, supportive online environment and platform from which to share their stories.

I especially appreciate their global focus to engage men and boys in the effort to end violence against women. By taking the message of intolerance for violence against women around the world, they are truly proving there are no social or cultural barriers when it comes to challenging expectations and inspiring change for women and girls of all ages, races and cultures.

Thank you, Pixel Project, for hosting the Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project — you have given us a powerful voice! Through your international organisation, you are making a significant impact and positive difference in the lives of sexual and domestic violence survivors across the world. A lack of discussion desensitises people to the abuse that is going on around them. I pray that everyone will get involved in some way to help end all violence against women and girls.

If anyone reads even one of these survivor stories, it will be as abolitionist William Wilberforce once said: “you may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2017: Angela Giles Klocke, 41, 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 11th  Survivor Stories interview is with Angela Giles Klocke 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 client advocate at a pregnancy centre where I use my experience as a teen mom and abuse/sexual assault/domestic violence survivor to help others. I have three grown-up children and three grandchildren (I’m only 41!) and have been remarried to a good man for 18 years. I share my story of my painful past and healing journey at Scars and Tiaras: Alive to Thrive (scarsandtiaras.com). I am a writer, speaker and photographer, and I love my everyday life in the mountains of Colorado.

 

angelagilesklocke1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence (this may include domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation etc)?

For as far back as I can remember, I have experienced different types of abuse:

As a young girl, I was a victim of abuse at the hands of my mother and stepfather. Later, I fought off an older brother’s attempted rape. Then I became the victim of molestation by a stepgrandfather.

As abuse continued in my life without justice, I fled my mother’s home as soon as I could, right into the arms of a boyfriend who became my first husband. He was my next and final abuser from the time I was 13 to 22, when he tried to kill me but died instead.

By the time I was 22, I felt used up and broke, worthless and stupid, hopeless.

 

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

When I tried to leave my abusive marriage, three children and too many years later, my ex-husband came after me with a gun.

Ultimately, he was killed instead. He had always said “till death do us part,” and he meant it. I just don’t think he meant for it to happen the way it did.

Some of his family blamed me for his death, so ultimately I had to remove myself from their influence as well.

 

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

I am still on my healing journey. For years following my freedom, I stuffed all my pain away. But 22 years of trauma eventually explodes, so I ended up with a breakthrough (as I call it) in 2012 that led me to counselling.

I now speak out and share my story openly with schools, groups, and one on one. I work with others as much as I can to assist their healing, and I find every single time we get to share our stories of hard places, we heal a little more.

Healing really IS a journey, and this year I found myself re-entering counselling to continue working through some of the pain that still sits in my heart.

 

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

I thought I was alone. I thought no one could help me. But even more today that 20 years ago, there are so many places available to help. I understand how hard it is to break away from an abusive situation, especially when a part of you really loves the person hurting you, but I also know we are worth so much more.

My ex-husband used to tell me that no one could ever love me the way he did – and he was right in many ways. I am re-married and my wonderful husband does not indeed love me the way my ex did, and that means I am happy and cared for and without bruises on my heart or body.

 

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

I truly believe that we all have the ability to step up and speak out. To shine a light into the darkness that is violence and abuse, to say we won’t take it, we won’t look the other way anymore.

When we stand together, when we stand for each other, we are powerful.

And when we open ourselves up to share, to help, we invite others in pain to start making new choices too.

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because it does exactly what I just highlighted – stepping up and speaking out, shining light into the darkness, saying NO MORE!

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2017: Trisha Williams, 49 , 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 10th Survivor Stories interview is with Trisha Williams 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:

Born and raised in Trenton, New Jersey, Trisha Williams is a survivor of domestic violence, a Christian, a writer, and a wife, mother and grandmother dedicated to her community. Despite being diagnosed with a host of nerve conditions due to domestic violence, she leads a busy life. After leaving her job at the Department of Labour, Trisha reinvented herself and began a successful career in writing fiction; she has published 6 novellas and a Christian stage play for teens. Trisha recently became vice president of Purple Hightops N Stilettos, a group leading the fight against domestic violence based in Las Vegas.

 

screenshot_2017-01-17-23-22-26-11. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence (this may include domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation etc)?

When I was 24 I met someone who I thought at the time was a real man. We moved in together too soon after we began dating, together with my two little girls and the youngest two of his four boys.

He had total control of our lives from the beginning. What I didn’t realise when I thought we were falling in love was that he was actually isolating me. Unreasonable domestic responsibilities were demanded of me and I was not allowed to go anywhere without him. His insecurity, jealousy and drugs became unbearable.

Verbal threats followed, then physical abuse (me only) as a form of discipline. After each incident he would apologise and tell me how it was us against the world, and it would be my fault if his boys ended up in gangs because I deserted them.

Too ashamed and far removed from my family, I kept it all a secret and after 6 years I became pregnant. I gave birth prematurely after he pushed me down a flight of stairs. He acted in love with me again but when the baby was 1 month, he started fighting me again. I love classical music and I play the violin so I’d play for the baby but any interest I had infuriated him so he pawned my precious violin.

I escaped to a safe haven the next day.

 

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

I asked permission to go to the store. I left out of the apartment door, then went down a fire escape with one kid on each hip.

 

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

Through thorough counselling and prayer.

I stayed at Women Against Abuse in Philadelphia for 30 days in 1994 and Womanspace in Trenton, New Jersey in 1995. The advocacy provided helped me learn my worth and begin to open up to other survivors, which was a tremendous help.

When I was at Womanspace, the advocates had me attend Group. During these times, opportunities arose where stories were shared that profoundly impacted my outlook, mostly because of similarities in our stories and patterns I wasn’t aware of, such as the onset of isolation, the stigma of keeping abuse a secret from those close to me, the guilt that I didn’t leave sooner with my children, and especially the ‘honeymoon’ phase where things seemed rosy.

It wasn’t until then I could really see the full circle of violence. Over time, in Group, I found my voice. So my advocacy stemmed from sharing resources, learning statistics and waving warning signs. If not for Group, I would have been ashamed of it, taking it to my grave.

It’s been 20 years, but I can identify these signs easily now and advise young people.

 

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

Leave:

  • To be open to counselling
  • To find a higher power
  • To find you again
  • To know you are not alone; I’ve been there.

 

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

Join and collaborate with other survivors and domestic violence organisations. If your community doesn’t offer one, start one.

Americans need to keep writing to Congress to stay on top of domestic violence laws and provide funding for continued advocacy programmes.

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

Because nobody should have to suffer the ravaging effects of domestic violence. Nobody.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2017: Charlaine Harris, 65, 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 9th  Survivor Stories interview is with Charlaine Harris from the USA.

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The Survivor Bio:

Charlaine Harris was born in Mississippi and has lived all over the South. Her first book (SWEET AND DEADLY) appeared in 1981, and she’s been a working writer ever since. Charlaine writes in a variety of genres  mystery, urban fantasy, science fiction – because she is easily bored. When Charlaine isn’t writing, she’s reading. Her personal life is thronged with rescue dogs, a husband, three adult children, and two grandchildren. Her grandchildren are intelligent, gifted, and attractive. She now lives on a cliff overlooking the Brazos River. You can learn more about Charlaine and her books at www.charlaineharris.com.

 

headshot31. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence (this may include domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation etc)?

I was raped by a stranger who broke into my apartment. He put a pillow over my head and put a knife to my throat.

 

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

He left finally, after a while. I could not move for another while. I thought he was still there. When I became convinced he was gone, I called the police.

 

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

I went to the rape crisis centre and was assisted through the examination and questioning process. I had always understood that rape was in the picture for women, and I had thought about what I would do. So I was mentally prepared, as much as anyone can be. I was determined he would not win. I also changed the way I lived my life, because I understood the value of it after I almost died.

 

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

Never think that you deserved or provoked this. Do anything you must to survive the situation.

If you possibly can  I know it’s not an option for some women  report the  attack. Keeping it secret gives it power over you. And it implies that you feel ashamed or guilty. You should not be. The perpetrator is the one who should be ashamed.

 

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

We can’t. But we can reduce the frequency of attacks by educating our male and female children about what consent means, about when to stop unwanted advances, and about how to react when the situation gets out of control. Just acknowledging that it’s in the list of possibilities is a big step for a lot of women.

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support any organisation that has education about violence against women and remediation as its goal.

Editor’s note: Watch Charlaine talk about strong women, surviving rape, and eradicating violence against women in our Read For Pixels Google Hangout recording below.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2017: Christie Edmisten, 38, 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 8th  Survivor Stories interview is with Christie Edmisten from the USA.

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The Survivor Bio:

My name is Christie, I am a 10-year survivor of domestic violence. I have 3 amazing children, 2 boys and 1 girl. I am originally from Northwest Arkansas. I enjoy spending time with friends and family and trying new things. I also enjoy baking, cooking, and DIY projects. I work full time as a manager of a plasma collection centre. In my spare time I join attorney Julie Medina and share my story in her “Speak Out” programme, educating others on domestic violence, teen dating violence and sexual assault. I also have a boyfriend of over 2 years who is a professional MMA fighter.   

 

christie2_cropped1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence (this may include domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation etc)?

I was involved in a relationship where I suffered domestic violence for about 7 years. My abuser’s brother also took the life of one of my good friends

 

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

I attempted many times to leave the relationship. Each time the violence escalated. I was afraid to allow any friends I had left to help me. During this time he would show up at their house; at one point he shot up a friend’s house where he thought I was staying. I was not safe anywhere.

I moved out of the home that we shared together and ended up getting a protection order. Unfortunately, this did not stop him either. With each attempt to leave I made the violence continued to escalate out of control.

He was finally arrested after hiding in my bedroom closet for 4 hours waiting for me and the kids to return home. My next door neighbour heard him assaulting me and called the police.

 

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

Rebuilding my life was difficult. My attorney Julie Medina gave me a lot of resources for help. She set me up with an advocate from the Women’s and Children’s Alliance and with their help I was able to move from my former home. I was also placed on the Address Confidentiality programme and I had to make sacrifices and get used to living on a 1-person income rather than a 2-person income.

I remained focused throughout the court proceedings. I knew that if he got out of jail this time he would kill me.

I rebuilt relationships with friends and family I had lost due to the relationship I was in. About 2 years ago, I found the courage to share my story with others after Julie Medina invited me to speak with her as a part of her Speak Out programme.

 

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

I would share my story with them. I would let them know that, despite what they may think right now, the violence is not going to stop, it will only escalate and get worse. Fortunately I was able to escape my violent relationship, but my friend was not so lucky.

I would also let them know that they are not alone. There are so many resources out there to help women in domestic violence situations, but you can’t do it alone, you need help!  People do care!

 

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

Educate! Educate! Educate! I strongly believe that early education is key. I knew nothing about domestic violence before I experienced it.

Speak Out reaches many high school and college students. It puts a face to the crime and helps break the stigma of these relationships. No one seeks out these relationships; they happen and progress slowly over a period of time.

Educate law enforcement as well. They need to know how to recognise these relationships to better respond. Stricter laws for comestic violence are important as well. It’s intimidating for some women to want to press charges when they know that their abuser could likely get out in as little as a few months. The punishment for abusers that violate protection orders should be stricter as well.

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support the Pixel Project because it educates and brings awareness to DV, sexual assault and other gender-based crimes.

 

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2017: Torey Ivanic, 40, 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 7th  Survivor Stories interview, courtesy of parillume, is with Torey Ivanic from the USA.

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The Survivor Bio:

Torey is a mom, wife, friend, daughter, sister, writer, climber, skier, hiker, runner, and yogi at the core. She values fun, adventure, healing, growth, and truth.  Professionally, she has more than 10 years’ experience as a physician assistant in family practice using both traditional and homeopathic medicine, and she started her own homeopathic practice four years ago. She loves to help people to think differently and live better through one on one homeopathic treatment, small group masterminds, retreats, and speaking engagements.

 

torey-15-cropped1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence (this may include domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation etc)?

I was the victim of gross sexual imposition at the age of 15 by my 30-year-old male gymnastics coach.

 

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

My abuser moved away.

 

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

I healed through playing in nature, doing yoga, skiing, climbing and finally seeing a therapist who had tons of experience in child protective services. His gentle guidance and acceptance of me as I was instrumental in my ability to get through it all.

15 years after the abuse, I reported it to the police. The case went to the State of Ohio’s prosecuting attorney who was on maternity leave since it was 15 years old and wasn’t a high priority. Once another report was made they brought the perpetrator in and questioned him. After he admitted his crimes they arrested him. He got out on bail and the prosecuting attorneys built their case against him. The trial date changed a bunch of times and that waiting game was torture; but the support we received from the victim/witness support office was fantastic.

He was ultimately convicted of multiple counts of rape and gross sexual imposition in 2008 and is currently in prison.

Five years after the trial was over I started my own business. I got married (the year after the trial) and started a family. These were things that I had been wanting in my life and just couldn’t seem to accomplish until dealing with this matter.

 

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

Own the truth of what is going on. You are not at fault. You have nothing to be ashamed of. You don’t have to define anything about yourself by someone else’s actions.

I will also say: get help and support from friends and family:

  • My brother was supportive of what I was doing and had apparently told me to do it long before, but I guess at that time I wasn’t ready to hear it for what it truly was.
  • During the time when I went to the police, I leaned on one friend in particular. She actually had a similar story in her history but she did not see it as abuse at that time. She was amazing at simply holding space for me and letting me cry. I couldn’t stop talking about it because it was so much on the surface of me at that time.
  • I had also just started dating the man who is now my husband. He was extremely supportive and even came to be at my house when I made the tapped phone call to my perpetrator. He was gentle and kind and gave me all the time and space I needed to process and grieve and move forward. He is my rock.

 

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

Talk about it more! Talk about it a lot when there are obvious situations, and talk about it in the light of PREVENTING it.  Shine a HUGE light on the fact that it is RAMPANT in the world. It is far too acceptable and way too often swept under the rug.

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support anything that works towards ending sexual violence. I submitted my story to The Pixel Project because I think we need to talk more openly and more often about the subject of sexual violence.