Posts tagged Activism 101

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: 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.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2017: Lisa Foster, 46, 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 6th  Survivor Stories interview, courtesy of parillume, is with Lisa Foster from the USA.

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The Survivor Bio:

I have been an entrepreneur, non-profit founder, public speaker, facilitator, and programme developer.  But my proudest accomplishment – along with raising my son – is my Hero’s Journey: my transformation from survivor to thriver after long-term childhood sexual abuse by my father.  I founded parillumeTM to empower victims of sexual violation to continue past the survivor stage and heroically reclaim the treasure of their trues selves shining in the world without shame.  To learn more, please see my recent TEDx talk, “Sexual Violation and The Invisible Hero” 

 

fb-profile-photo_cropped1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence (this may include domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation etc)?

I was sexually abused by my father, beginning at a very young age (2 years old) and continuing through my early elementary school years.

 

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

I didn’t escape.  I went to school every day and found solace there. I repressed all memories of the abuse until the age of 20, when I began to have flashbacks and confronted my father about abusing me.

He denied it, and I lost my entire family.  No one believed me, supported me, or helped me.  Instead, they accused me of being used by the devil to destroy the family.

Fortunately, within a few months, as a senior in college, at age 21, I got married and was able to leave the family.

 

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

Fortunately, in my new marriage, I had access to a wonderful therapist and began a three-year journey of intense healing.  I went to weekly therapy and support groups and did everything I could to feel and process my emotions: all the pain, sadness, rage, fear.

After that, I continued to heal for another twenty years through various modalities, both spiritual and secular.  I processed my PTSD through EMDR and participated in other powerful therapeutic work.  And I journaled nearly every day, prayed, and talked to safe people about my story.

After 21 years, I left my unhealthy marriage and for the last three years have been on the adventure of my life, finally accessing my truest self and authentically shining in my life.  I can finally say that I am whole and that I love myself.

 

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

What happened to you is not your fault.  You are not alone.  You are not crazy, you are not to blame, and you are not broken.  You are beautiful, you are free, and you can shine again without shame.  You can be your own hero and go on a journey to recover from the pain and to then reclaim the treasure of your true self.

The first step is finding a safe person to share your story with who can also help you find the recovery resource that works best for you.  If you can’t afford therapy, there may be a non-profit that can provide you the support you need.  Just begin.

Read books, watch videos,  check out the parillume website.  Begin to feel and move through the pain and know that there is a fierce hope available to you. You are worth it.

 

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

I think it requires a combination of many efforts and movements:

First: Those of us who have experienced violence must shine again in our voice and choice and tell our stories – without shame.

Second: Perpetrators must be held accountable for their actions.

Third: Good men must rise up to say “No more.  Not on my watch.”

And, finally, we must take action to transform the conversation around violence against women from one of shame and silence to one of heroism and fierce hope.

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project? 

I love The Pixel Project’s mission!  It is full of hope and creativity and light. Through the power of the internet, social media, pop culture, and the arts to end violence against women, the nonprofit reaches multiple generations of people who can make a difference.

 

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2017: Erin Brandt, 36, 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 5th  Survivor Stories interview is with Erin Brandt 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 Erin Brandt and I am currently working as a real estate agent in both Colorado and Texas. I actually own my real estate company in Texas and have been in real estate for 11 years, although during my abusive marriage I was often unable to work with clients. I have 3 children - 2 girls and a boy. My survivor status is that I am an overcomer and survived physical and mental abuse. I also am slowly working on opening a rescue home for woman and children.

 

erin-brandt_cropped1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence (this may include domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation etc)?

My experience with gender-based violence was in a domestic violence situation. I was mentally and verbally attacked on a daily basis by both my spouse and his children.

My spouse consistently accused me of cheating and told me I sucked at my job and at sales and there was constant negative reinforcement. At one point his child threatened to beat my head into the sidewalk. There were times where my spouse pushed me, hit me and took swings at me. He had put many holes in the walls, kicked and dented a vehicle and strangled his children in front of me.

The last straw before I finally made the leap to leave was where he had moved out and invited me to a concert. He brought beer as usual and he started a fight. He took me down dark back roads and pulled over near a field. I got out and ran away. I sent a screenshot of where I was and told my friend if I didn’t come to work the next day this is where I was. She saved my life by contacting the police immediately to track me down.

 

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

After the incident where I felt like he was going to kill me, my abuser was finally stopped in front of my first ex-husband’s house where the cops showed up. This happened on a Friday. My friend pulled up behind the police car and took me into her house. It was such a blessing. At the time this woman barely knew me and she came to save me!

My children had already been traumatised from our relationship. They were at my first ex-husband’s house and that was it for me. I no longer wanted to subject my children to this situation.

The following Monday I filed for divorce and a protective order.

 

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

I actually had a hard time healing. I moved out of the home that I had known for the past 8 years into an apartment alone. At the first court hearing, I wasn’t allowed to present audio evidence of the abuse that I had experienced. It was determined that I had lied about the abuse and my youngest daughter was put into the custody of my abuser. I was devastated. I was worried daily about her safety.

Down the road, my family was able to step in, hire a better lawyer, and gain custody of my daughter by presenting the exact evidence that I was denied to present to the court. After that I knew that my daughter would be safe and I move from Texas to Colorado to get away from my abuser.

Now, I am doing well. I am focused on my daughter and my work and family. I am in a good place emotionally. It’s still a rebuilding process; however I have been able to do so more quickly now that I don’t have constant chaos in my life.

 

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

I would suggest that once you start seeing signs of abuse that you should leave because  it won’t get better. I know that it is hard to recognise signs at first because it seemed to happen gradually until I was no longer in control of myself, he was. Looking back I can see the signs were there from the very beginning.

I would also like to let women know that the abuse or attempted abuse never stops. My abusive ex-husband, even though we have been divorced and separated for years, is still making attempts to destroy my life by making false claims and trying to tarnish my business.

We just need to stay strong and put these things out of our minds. We can no longer allow them to control our emotions, because when we allow this, we allow them to win.

 

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

We need more education. Men and children are the key to stopping the cycle and I believe that we could end violence against woman by teaching men and children about abuse – how it is wrong and how we should respect all people. When we respect one another, then we will stop harming each other.

I feel like there is a lot of focus on the rescue and rehabilitation of women, which is great. However, without a change in our society as a whole, abuse will continue.

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project, because I feel that it is important to have some focus on stories of success after abuse. I feel like hearing stories of success gives women who are currently in abusive relationships a hope for a happy life after leaving a life of brokenness. It may be a long road, but it is a possible road.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2017: Rachelle Gershkovich, 30, 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 4th Survivor Stories interview, courtesy of parillume, is with Rachelle Gershkovich from the USA. 

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

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The Survivor Bio:

Rachelle M. Gershkovich is a nutritionist, certified sleep specialist, author, and owner of Maternal Instincts. She has worked in postpartum support since 2002 and has helped guide hundreds of families through the transitions of the first year of their infant’s life. With her background in nutrition, she was able to develop a new tear-free method of sleep training based on nutrition and instincts. Rachelle educates and supports the understanding of the nervous system and its role in infant development and bonding. She is also a loving mother of four beautiful children and the author of Creating Sweet Dreams

 

rachelle-kachelries1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence (this may include domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation etc)?

I grew up in an evangelical church that taught me submission and oppression from day one. When I was raped and molested at 14 the shame was put on me because I was no longer a virgin. My rapist was never charged or held accountable for his actions and I was then an outcast from my community.

I married my first boyfriend at 18 who became my worst abuser. He began the abuse 3 weeks after our marriage and felt I deserved every bit of it. He was physically, mentally, and sexually abusive. He used my rape that had truly shattered me as a young girl as a tool for control and manipulation. He is a monster to this day.

 

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

I called my sisters shortly after an exceptionally bad physical abuse and asked them to come help me. They drove through the night (13-hour drive) and waited for him to leave the house. When he left they helped me pack up my life. I hid for 2 years before finally gaining freedom.

Physically leaving was step one and it took 8 years before I moved to step two of emotional healing.

 

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

I started with focusing on my education and building a way to provide for my daughters. I built a career based on my passion and found healing in knowing my place in this world.

Eventually I gave myself the grace of processing and healing from the pain and things I had been robbed of. I respect my triggers and know my strength now. This project is also part of my healing.

 

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

I would like to share: You are stronger than you think, braver then you know, and deserve more than this.

I am a visual learner and processor, so I will share with you a small activity you can do to help. Sit down and think of something you consider crossing the line. Think of the one thing your abuser could do that you cannot forgive and will not tolerate. Draw a line with your finger in front of you and put that thing on the other side. Also write it down and claim if this person does this you will leave. No questions asked. It is your line in the sand and it cannot be crossed.

I did this and it was the only reason I left. I had moved states, tried to take the blame for “provoking” him, been to many counsellors, he had taken many anger management classes, and we had tried so many things to “fix” our situation. I would have done anything. Except one. I would not stay if he hurt one of my daughters. If he hit them I would leave no questions asked. That night he did just that. My daughter tried to help me and he hurt her to get to me. At this moment I saw my line in the sand and knew I could leave.

 

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

I think we can teach our daughters signs to be aware of and ways to read a situation, and to follow their instincts. I think we can teach our sons how to be protective and supportive of women. Most importantly I think we can lead by example.

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support the Pixel Project because I believe in hope and living a life shame free. I believe in giving the ugly back to the person who deserves to hold it and living free of their actions.

 

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2017: PC Cast, 57, 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 3rd  Survivor Stories interview is with PC Cast from the USA.

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

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The Survivor Bio:

#1 NY Times and #1 USA Today bestselling author PC Cast is a survivor of rape. With more than 20 million books in print in over 40 countries, she writes multiple bestselling YA series. PC is a member of the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame. Her novels have been awarded the prestigious: Oklahoma Book Award, YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Prism, Holt Medallion, Daphne du Maurier, Booksellers’ Best, and the Laurel Wreath. PC is an experienced teacher and talented speaker. Ms. Cast lives in Oregon near her fabulous daughter, her adorable pack of dogs, her crazy Maine Coon, and a bunch of horses.  When she isn’t writing she can be found at her favorite yoga studio, or hanging out with her daughter and a close group of friends.  She loves travel, craft beer, good wine and awesome vegan food – not necessarily in that order. Ms. Cast’s picture is (c) Stark Photography.

 

stark_photography_cast_portraits_005_cropped1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence (this may include domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation etc)?

When I was thirteen I was raped by an eighteen-year-old young man.  He and I had been “dating.”  I put that in quotes because at thirteen I was too young to be allowed to date.  The night he raped me I was staying with an adult friend of the family while my father, who was a coach, was out of town with his team.  The friend worked nights, which was when Alan stopped by her apartment to say hi and hang out with me.

First he kissed me, which I remember thinking was fun.  As he kept doing more – reaching under my shirt, undoing my jeans – I asked him to stop.  He paid no attention to anything I said. When he forced off my pants I tried to stop him.  He said something I’ll never forget: “Oh, please.  Like you’re a virgin?”  I was dumbfounded.  I didn’t know what to do.  I’d already said no.  He was twice my size.  I was terrified and I remember freezing and being unable to speak or move while he was raping me.  I also remember he got pissed when he had to force his way inside my body saying sarcastically, “So, you’re not even going to help me out here a little?”

 

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

When he was done I told him I had to go to the bathroom.  He let me up and I went into the bathroom, locked the door, and took the hottest bath I could stand.  He was in the living room.  By that time, because there was blood all over him, he called through the door to ask if I was okay.  I don’t think he thought he’d done anything wrong.  He certainly didn’t act like it.

Eventually he left because he knew the woman I was staying with would be home from work soon.  I saw him once after that.  He tried to rape me again, but we were in public and my father was waiting down the street for me, so it was easy for me to get away from him.  Alan wasn’t from my town, and back in 1973 the world was much bigger.  I never saw him again.

 

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

It was 1973.  There was no such thing as “date rape.”  I blamed myself.  I believed I was broken.  I didn’t tell anyone what happened – not the adult friend when she came home; not my father (he raised me); not any of my friends.

I spent the next several years being promiscuous.  My thought process was, “I’m broken, so why not?”  Now I understand I was trying to take my power back by being the aggressor in sexual situations.  I loathed myself.

I didn’t begin to heal until I was in my late twenties.  I had to grow up enough to understand that what had happened wasn’t my fault – I hadn’t asked for it – I hadn’t deserved it just because I allowed my “friend” to come over unsupervised.  When I realised that I began to get help.  I went to a therapist and I finally started talking about what happened, and that is when I truly healed.

 

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

What I’d like to share is simple:  IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT.

It sounds like we should know that.  It seems we should all be aware, but when it happens to you, everything you know changes.  So, we need to sound our empowered yawps from the rooftops of the world as we shout: IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT HE ABUSED YOU.  YOU ARE NOT BROKEN – HE IS.  WE SUPPORT YOU.  WE LOVE YOU.  WE WILL LISTEN TO YOU.  WE WILL BELIEVE YOU.

Say it over and over again, and don’t let any women – young or old – shoulder the fault of a patriarchal society’s apathy.

 

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

The only way we can end violence against women is to end the patriarchy.  As long as men rule – in politics, in corporate America, in positions of power – women will continue to be abused because MEN ARE NOT MADE TO FACE THE CONSEQUENCES OF THEIR ACTIONS.

Over and over again the media shows us examples of men who are convicted of rape, only to receive mere slaps on the wrist because their lives could be ruined.  THEY SHOULD BE.  The Good Ol’ Boys’ club is alive and thriving, especially with Trump as President. Men don’t hold each other accountable for their bad behaviour, so women must.  Until more women are in power this ideology will continue.

As Martin Luther King, Jr said so eloquently in his Letter From Birmingham Jail: “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

We must demand our freedom from the patriarchy.

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

Because I support the empowerment of women.

Editor’s note: Watch PC and her daughter Kristin talk about feminism, surviving rape, and eradicating violence against women in our Read For Pixels Google Hangout recording below.