Posts tagged Activism

“30 For 30″ Father’s Day Campaign 2015: Interview 30 – Lonny Davis, 76, USA

Welcome to The Pixel Project’s “30 For 30″ Father’s Day Campaign 2015! In honour of Father’s Day, we created this campaign:

  • To acknowledge the vital role Dads play in families, cultures and communities worldwide.
  • To showcase good men from different walks of life who are fabulous positive non-violent male role models.

Through this campaign, we will be publishing a short interview with a different Dad on each day of the month of June.

This campaign is also part of a programme of initiatives held throughout 2015 in support of the Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign that is in benefit of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and The Pixel Project. Donate at just US$1 per pixel to reveal the mystery Celebrity Male Role Models and help raise US$1 million for the cause while raising awareness about the important role men and boys play in ending violence against women in their communities worldwide. Donations begin at just US$10 and you can donate via the Pixel Reveal website here or the Pixel Reveal Razoo donation page here.

Our thirtieth and final “30 For 30″ 2015 Dad is Lonny Davis from the USA.

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The Dad Bio

My name is Lonny Davis. I have worked as a musician, policeman, rescue instructor, construction worker, purchaser, and property manager. My interests include music, hunting, fishing, drawing and oil-painting, and mentoring men fresh out of prison.  My wife Jenell is my constant participating companion. During cold, hard winters, we played instruments, made useful things, learned hand crafts and had hobbies.  Before Jenell and I were married, we decided that when children came, she would be a home-maker until the last kid left home. We had three boys and two girls, and we liked to vacation, camp, and fish together.  We see or hear from our children almost every week.

Lonny Davis Fathers Day photo

1. What is the best thing about being a dad?

For me, it was, and still is with our grand- and great-grandchildren, the joy and satisfaction of watching each child develop his or her own personality and character, learning to find their places in the family, neighbourhood, and community. Each chose their own interests, vocations, and avocations, making their mother and me proud and grateful.

2. A dad is usually the first male role model in a person’s life and fathers do have a significant impact on their sons’ attitude towards women and girls. How has your father influenced the way you see and treat women and girls?

My father came from a long line of hard-drinking coal-miners. Dad quit drinking when Mom got pregnant. I always knew where Dad was and when he would be home. He was a man of his word, a gentleman, always mindful and courteous in the presence of females. He never verbally abused anyone. When I started dating, he taught me how to treat girls with the same respect I had learned to show to older women, and to never say or do anything that I would not do in front of Mom. If I could be proud of myself, I would then be good to others.

3. Communities and activists worldwide are starting to recognise that violence against women is not a “women’s issue” but a human rights issue and that men play a role in stopping the violence. How do you think fathers and other male role models can help get young men and boys to take an interest in and step up to help prevent and stop violence against women?

Young men will not value the benefits and rewards of being an in-home father unless they can see good role-modelling by good fathers. This starts with observing a good husband.

Many young men are angry and frustrated because they have not been fathered themselves. They have not been taught how to deal with the challenges of life as a man and are insecure in their manhood. They were not nurtured, guided, encouraged, and mentored by mature men. Courts order men to group sessions on parenting and anger-management, but do not provide mentoring by successful husbands and fathers. Prison or jail time never produces the good results that mentoring can.

I suggest spending as much effort on developing a mentoring programme as is spent on anti-violence education.

 

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: Ruthie Owen, 54, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our second annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2015. The project runs throughout the month of May 2015 and features an interview per day with a survivor of any form of violence against women (VAW) including domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation, forced/child marriage, sex trafficking, breast ironing etc. A total of 31 VAW survivor stories will be featured. This project 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.

This project is also part of a programme of initiatives held throughout 2015 in support of the Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign that is in benefit of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and The Pixel Project. Donate at just US$1 per pixel to reveal the mystery Celebrity Male Role Models and help raise US$1 million for the cause while raising awareness about the important role men and boys play in ending violence against women in their communities worldwide. Donations begin at just US$10 and you can donate via the Pixel Reveal website here or the Pixel Reveal Razoo donation page here.

Our thirty-first 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Ruthie Owen from the U.S.A.

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 an author, a past A&R music scout for Arista and J/MLS Records, airbrush makeup artist and have two majors from college: Psychology and Business Marketing. I am very social, have a large family which is blood and not-blood related. I travel, am in my 50’s and enjoying life now to its fullest. “By the Grace of God”.

RuthieOwenPixelProject1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I was not raised in a home with divorce or violence. My parents had a loving 50 year marriage until they passed.

I fell in love at age 15 with a popular athlete at my high school who was 3 years older than I was. The first week of high school he “chose” me to be his girlfriend. We were inseparable and my parents did not like it at all. They saw his obsessive and controlling ways. I continued to see him and my parents told me “either never see him again or move out”. I was 17 years old and scared to death to leave home but I trusted him. We moved in together.

I was still in high school and 5 months into living together, we argued and he hit my face so hard that I had two black eyes and blood everywhere from my nose. I was in shock. I had to go to school with those black eyes and all knew what happened including my class counselor, but I lied to cover it up. I was raised that when I made a choice, I stuck with it. I stopped loving him the day he hit me the first time.

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

I moved out at age 18 and he was to move to another state for college. I didn’t love him anymore, but he came to see me before he left, asking me to please go with him and I got pregnant that day. I love my children so very much, but it was not a planned “good-bye” of mine. It was of his. He knew I would never give up a baby even though I was a teen, so I left my new life to once again be with him.

Over the years, he worked out of our homes. I was isolated, told not to leave the house and if I did, when to come back. We had two beautiful children together but I prayed every day that God would save me and my babies by letting us get free. I was verbally, physically and sexually abused for 8 years.

I had planned my “escape” with my small kids for 3 years. One day he left in a hurry and that was the answer to my prayers. I got my kids, their clothes, beds, toys and my clothes and left with no place to go far from home. But we were free.

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

It took me years to get over the abuse. The confident, popular, outgoing 16-year old that I was before I met him, was gone forever. I had to get her back. We had joint custody of our kids and moved back to the state where family was. I was still numb, scared and had no self-worth. When somebody calls you filthy names in front of your friends, family, and children for 8 years, humiliation sets in. I drank at night because I had panic attacks. I had PTSD and was later diagnosed by a psychiatrist as that. I went through years of therapy, peeling off one layer at a time of the damage that had been done. Trust was the hardest to get back. But, I quit drinking, stopped the cycle and never went back. I survived. That was 34 years ago. I am now almost 55 years old and an author on the subject of being a Domestic Violence survivor that I wrote in 2010 that is on The Pixel Project’s site.

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

I have learned to rely on my gut instincts and the knowledge that I have now. I recognise the controlling behavior that leads to abuse and stay far from it. I surround myself with positive, loving people and have gotten my trust back in good people. Watch out for anyone that comes on too strong, too quickly. That could be a new relationship or a friendship or a co-worker. They are very charming (75% out of %100) and will contact you often. It feels flattering at first, but if this person has a history of the same past relationships or has it in their family, hold your head up high and walk away. The true people are the ones that let you know they are there for you without even telling you. They do it by actions and not by words. They keep their promises and believe me when I say this; you can have a wonderful life once again. One step at a time.

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

Domestic Violence has always had (in the past when it happened to me) a secrecy about it. No one discussed it. It was “shameful, frightening and out of control”. Sadly, it was only when Nicole Simpson was murdered in 1994 that Domestic Violence had a voice. And as time has gone by, that voice has gotten louder and louder. No more suffering in silence.

It is not a topic that is pleasant at all but, I firmly speak on it because I have worked or known women who have been abused and wanted out of that. I would tell them exactly what had happened to me and what I learned. We are not their victims – the abusers are their own victim. Things happen in life and we don’t always understand why they happened to us, but it strengthens us to become more compassionate for others and we are no longer afraid. We unite more, speak louder and give hope so that more and more are not afraid to get out.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

It was in preparation of my e-book published in 2010, that I contacted The Pixel Project asking them if I could quote from their website. Regina Yau answered back and gave me permission for which I was so grateful. When my e-book was published, I sent The Pixel Project a copy of it and press release and they not only thanked me but listed my e-book on their international site and it is still there.

I support them for any and all types of abuse because The Pixel Project cares. They have been around for many with many resources and mentors. I applaud them so very much and will always support and refer anybody in this area, to them. THANK YOU PIXEL PROJECT.

SURVIVOR STORIES: Jennet Sullivan, 30, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our second annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2015. The project runs throughout the month of May 2015 and features an interview per day with a survivor of any form of violence against women (VAW) including domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation, forced/child marriage, sex trafficking, breast ironing etc. A total of 31 VAW survivor stories will be featured. This project 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.

This project is also part of a programme of initiatives held throughout 2015 in support of the Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign that is in benefit of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and The Pixel Project. Donate at just US$1 per pixel to reveal the mystery Celebrity Male Role Models and help raise US$1 million for the cause while raising awareness about the important role men and boys play in ending violence against women in their communities worldwide. Donations begin at just US$10 and you can donate via the Pixel Reveal website here or the Pixel Reveal Razoo donation page here.

Our thirtieth 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Jennet Sullivan from the U.S.A.

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:

Jennet Sullivan lost her mother, Suzette Threet, to domestic violence in 2009.  As she learned more about her mother’s struggle and the dynamics that affected her own view of a healthy relationship, she began learning about, and teaching others, in her field about the dynamics of domestic violence.  She hopes to help people understand the reasons people stay, and the insurmountable strength victims must have on a daily basis.  She is married to her amazing husband Justin, and they have two children, Benjamin and Eli.  When not working or teaching, she loves going on adventures with her family.

Jennet Sullivan_cropped1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I was raised in an abusive home, although at the time I didn’t realise it.  When abuse is all you know, it’s completely normalised.  My dad didn’t beat my mom in front of us, but he verbally attacked her and beat her down emotionally and mentally.  He would isolate her (and us children) from friends and family so effortlessly we didn’t realise we were under attack.

It was only after he murdered her – years after I had grown and left the home – that we realised he had been abusive for years. Many of my siblings still struggle with that influence which normalised abuse. It’s hard to fight against all that you’ve ever known.

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

I grew up and moved out.  As an adult, I struggled finding a healthy relationship.  I knew my parents’ relationship wasn’t healthy, but I didn’t know what a healthy relationship looked like.

My mother never escaped. She stayed in the abusive relationship until it literally killed her.  I share this story because she is not here to do it. I wish she had been able to leave, but sometimes I think that the things that tie us down are too strong to fight. I think she had been told time and time again that no one else would want her, that she wasn’t worth anyone else’s time. I think she was told that she couldn’t abandon him so many times that eventually she believed it. And that eventually cost her everything.

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

After my mom was murdered by my dad, the world stopped. Because he killed himself after he murdered her, we had to completely disassemble the world they had built.  We found diary entries where my Mother detailed the abuse, letters where he begged for another chance.  Broken promises hung in the air of their home.

I healed one day at a time. I met with strong women who could talk me through my grief, I was counselled, I prayed.  I turned to my faith in God, and he met me at my most broken and lost.

I slowly restructured my life with the knowledge that I could never again call my mom to ask for a recipe. I had to grieve the loss of her not only as my mother, but also as the grandmother of my future children.  Experiencing a violent event changes you forever; and while you can heal there will still be moments of grieving.

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

My situation is unique as I left the abusive home before I realised that it was abusive, and was third party to my Mother’s murder.  But I would share with women or teenagers that domestic violence is about power and control over a person. Every violent relationship starts out with verbal and emotional attacks. Learn the signs to recognise abuse and don’t let it change your heart.  Realise that you have worth and that in a healthy relationship you won’t feel worthless.  Don’t let them isolate you away from people who care. Never let another person devalue you.

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

I think we have to empower people with tools to recognise a healthy relationship.  Our culture is saturated with bad examples and our homes are creating future victims and abusers because people don’t realise how much children see, and how it helps shape their view of relationships.

We have to take back the power and control that abusers try to maintain in their homes and over their victims. We have to empower women, teenagers and all victims with healthy boundaries and tools to be comfortable and safe within a relationship.

We have to call out abuse when we see it.

We must convince women that love doesn’t hurt – emotionally, physically, or mentally.  We must convince women that that they are powerful people who have value as individuals. No one deserves to be abused, and all women should live with that knowledge and have resources to escape dangerous situations.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

Because I share the same vision that The Pixel Project has in ending domestic violence.  I like that it’s not just about ending violence, but about having the difficult conversations about violence.  Our culture has turned a blind eye to abuse happening, but slowly (with the support of organisations like The Pixel Project) we’re starting to talk about it more.  The more we talk about it and normalise the conversation, the more people will be empowered to make a difference in their own lives or the lives of others.

SURVIVOR STORIES: Brianne Coleman, 34, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our second annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2015. The project runs throughout the month of May 2015 and features an interview per day with a survivor of any form of violence against women (VAW) including domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation, forced/child marriage, sex trafficking, breast ironing etc. A total of 31 VAW survivor stories will be featured. This project 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.

This project is also part of a programme of initiatives held throughout 2015 in support of the Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign that is in benefit of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and The Pixel Project. Donate at just US$1 per pixel to reveal the mystery Celebrity Male Role Models and help raise US$1 million for the cause while raising awareness about the important role men and boys play in ending violence against women in their communities worldwide. Donations begin at just US$10 and you can donate via the Pixel Reveal website here or the Pixel Reveal Razoo donation page here.

Our twenty-ninth 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Brianne Coleman from the U.S.A.

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:

Brianne Coleman is first and foremost a mother and a wife.  She is a survivor of child molestation, rape and domestic violence.  When she is not with her loving husband and children, she is either working as a legal assistant in Chicago or acting as an advocate for both victims and survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.  She will be attending Graduate School at Purdue University in the fall to obtain her MBA and is currently writing her book of survivorship that will hopefully be published by the end of the year.  She has become the face of St. Jude House, a battered women’s shelter in Northwest Indiana and plans to continue the mission of St. Jude House and support others who have been in her shoes. In Brianne’s spare time, when she has some, she enjoys riding her motorcycle with her husband and bowling with her family.

Brianne Coleman_cropped1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

My youngest son’s father started his abuse three months into our relationship.  The first time he hit me was on New Year’s Eve 2002.  He beat me with a belt for an hour that time and forced me to sit in a scalding hot bath.

I left the following day, stayed away for a few months and during that time, I found out I was pregnant and went back.  He promised to get help, get on meds and never hit me again.  I believed him but the violence gradually got worse.  He locked me and my oldest son in our apartment for days and days without a phone.  He would come home and beat me, rape me and sexually assault me at gun point during my entire pregnancy.  He constantly threatened to kill our unborn son.  The day I came home from the hospital after having our son, he forced me to walk to the car instead of pushing me in a wheelchair. When I didn’t move fast enough, he kicked me in my private parts.  I was 24 hours post-delivery.  He was crazy and I was scared to leave.

He had severe mental illness and I knew I couldn’t stay much longer or he’d kill me. It was two months later, in November 2003, that he called me home from work and beat me for over three hours. His weapon of choice that day was his fists, plunger sticks, glass candles and whatever else he could find.  My oldest son was 2 ½ and watched the entire episode.  He was crying so hard that he vomited on himself and my son’s father literally threw him in the bathtub.  He had been abusive to him as well.  He hung me over the stair banister and threatened to kill me.  He kidnapped our infant son and took off.

I called my other son’s grandma and she got me out of the house.  We had to wait for the SWAT team before I could get my baby.  About three hours after I left, the police swarmed our apartment and he was arrested and my son was returned to me.

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

After he was arrested on November 13, 2003, I went to our apartment and gathered as many of my things as possible and went to St. Jude House, a battered women’s shelter.  The care I received was unbelievable.  They were great.  They were supportive and non-judgmental.

I stayed for a little over 60 days until I was able to get on my feet.  I got an apartment that they helped me furnish and we started our lives over again, fresh and anew.  I took him back one more time after that.  I still loved him.  He got upset with me one night because I didn’t want to have sex and he beat me and raped me again and slept with my phone so I couldn’t call 911.

The next day, I called the police and that was it.  I was done.  I never looked back.

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

Healing is a long and difficult process.  Admitting all the things that he did to me was the hardest.  I had a hard time accepting the fact that a man I loved could hurt me, rape me, and violate me in the way he did.  It was difficult.  I started rebuilding my life after the last time by signing up for college and getting my degree.  I wanted to do better for my children.

I managed to get my Associate’s Degree in less than a year and my Bachelor’s Degree in about 15 months.  In 2008, St. Jude House asked me to speak at their Annual Vigil as a survivor.  That was Stage 1 of my healing process.  I sought therapy afterwards and forgave him.  It’s part of the process.  I will never forget what he did to me and a part of me is still scared, but I have to remember that I am a survivor for a reason.

Earlier this year, I was asked to be the Guest of Honour for St. Jude House at the First Look for Charity Event hosted by the Chicago Auto Show.  I was able to tell my story in a docu-drama film that was shared at the event and has been shared at other events.  I plan on spending the remainder of my life being an advocate and telling my story to inspire others.

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

It is difficult to tell someone what to do in these situations because until they are ready to walk away, they won’t walk away.  I share this motto, “When the fear of staying is greater than the fear of leaving” is when victims become survivors and get away from their abusers.  At least that was the truth for me.

As an advocate, I encourage and support, offer resources and listen.  I am support.  I share my story as inspiration and hope to continue inspiring others.

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

Ending violence against women is a challenge because so many women don’t know the signs.  So many women have low self-esteem and those abusers prey on those women.  We need more support, more resources and more love from women.  So many women are afraid to tell their stories.

I created a support group on Facebook and many of the women, years after their abuse, are still afraid to tell their stories.  We need to find a platform where women of all cultures, all races, all socio-economic backgrounds can come together to uplift and encourage women.  It starts with each individual doing their part.

Also, laws need to be stricter for the abusers.  A slap on the wrist isn’t doing the trick.  Restraining orders mean nothing to abusers.  Stricter laws and more assistance to women who endure violence at the hands of men is a great start.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because it is an international organisation that can and will touch many men and women.  Social media is so large that it will reach wider audiences and that makes me happy. I love that celebrities are involved because, as we know, people follow celebrities.  I would love more than anything to be a part of this movement.  Stop violence against women.  That’s one of my very personal goals.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: Alice Argosino, 45, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our second annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2015. The project runs throughout the month of May 2015 and features an interview per day with a survivor of any form of violence against women (VAW) including domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation, forced/child marriage, sex trafficking, breast ironing etc. A total of 31 VAW survivor stories will be featured. This project 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.

This project is also part of a programme of initiatives held throughout 2015 in support of the Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign that is in benefit of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and The Pixel Project. Donate at just US$1 per pixel to reveal the mystery Celebrity Male Role Models and help raise US$1 million for the cause while raising awareness about the important role men and boys play in ending violence against women in their communities worldwide. Donations begin at just US$10 and you can donate via the Pixel Reveal website here or the Pixel Reveal Razoo donation page here.

Our twenty-sixth 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Alice Argosino from the U.S.A.

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 Alice and I am, by profession, a fitness professional. I am a mother of 4 girls aged 13, 9, 6, and 5.  We are survivors of domestic violence.  We have been DV-free for 14 months and have endured degradation, humiliation and shunning from family and friends.  We are strong, we are bright, and we are beautiful, surrounding ourselves with only those that will treat us with kindness and understanding.  We have had our lives turned upside down by lethal violence and gender-based hatred but have climbed our way out of the dank abyss and stand proud of who we are and where we have come from.  

Alice Argosino1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

My daughters and I experienced domestic violence in varying forms.  As the female partner, I was strangled, kicked, thrown, held hostage, hit, kept awake, and restrained.  I was verbally and emotionally abused as well as fiscally abused.

My children, all under the age of 12, were called “stupid”, “fat bitches”, “whores”, “idiots”, and “pigs”.  They also experienced physical violence as well as emotional abuse.

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

After a particularly challenging day when my abuser beat me with the Christmas tree, kicked me, called me a whore, and continued to demean my person –all in front of my children – I filed for a protection order.  He was served and removed from our home several days later.

Through the grace of God and savvy professionals, after a court-appointed investigation, a full domestic violence protection order was issued.

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

I had become involved with our local domestic violence advocacy programme and through the kindness and support of my advocate, I was able to enrol in counselling for myself and my children.

We were put in touch with a pro bono attorneys group to help with any legal issues.  We moved to a new home and were enlisted in our state’s address confidentiality programme.  I utilised the National Domestic Violence Hotline as well as our local hotline for those moments when I felt lost and unsure.  I reached out for help and was fortunate to receive it.

I have shared my story with others and I will be speaking to schools about domestic violence.  I have volunteered for our local police department’s victim advocacy program.  I am healing by helping others.

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

I would recommend to anyone in a similar situation to seek help through a hotline or a local advocacy program.  Document the abuse if able and strategise: plan your escape or their removal.  Reach out to family and/or friends.  You are not alone.  There is an immense support system throughout that will stand by your side and help you through domestic violence.  Brace yourself for those that turn their backs.  They never were your friends.

Surround yourself with positivity and love yourself. Be kind to yourself and be forgiving to yourself.  You are valuable, you are beautiful, and you are strong.

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

Violence against women may end through education.  Teach the young about respect and love.  Publicise and ostracizse the men that degrade and violate women.  Sharing stories and experiences internationally, developing a wide net of support for victims and survivors.  These are just a few solutions to a complex and under recognised societal issue that deserves to be in the forefront of all rather than casting it aside as a private matter between man and woman.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

As they say, “Knowledge is power.”  The Pixel Project is helping to bring these “behind closed doors”issues to the forefront, raising awareness and developing dialogue.  Conversation is vital for recognition to any cause or issue.  Allowing victims to speak is a unique and special gift you have given not only for those that have suffered violence but for those that are unfamiliar with violence.

Unfortunately, there are a great deal of stereotypes and biases against women who suffer from domestic violence.  Educating society as a whole is an enormous task in its entirety but great strides are being made to whittle the ignorance gap. The Pixel Project’s Survivor Stories platform is giving a voice to those that may not have the strength to do so in person.  The Pixel Project’s mission will help save others and that is invaluable.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: Amanda Berg, 30, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our second annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2015. The project runs throughout the month of May 2015 and features an interview per day with a survivor of any form of violence against women (VAW) including domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation, forced/child marriage, sex trafficking, breast ironing etc. A total of 31 VAW survivor stories will be featured. This project 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.

This project is also part of a programme of initiatives held throughout 2015 in support of the Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign that is in benefit of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and The Pixel Project. Donate at just US$1 per pixel to reveal the mystery Celebrity Male Role Models and help raise US$1 million for the cause while raising awareness about the important role men and boys play in ending violence against women in their communities worldwide. Donations begin at just US$10 and you can donate via the Pixel Reveal website here or the Pixel Reveal Razoo donation page here.

Our twenty-fifth 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Amanda Berg from the U.S.A.

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:

Amanda Berg is not only a full-time student working on her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work, she has also gotten her four-year degree in criminal justice/client services. She has been telling her story going on 3 years and is also an on-call women’s advocate at her local women’s shelter. She is a wife, mom, Girl Scout leader, Boy Scout parent and looking forward for camping season to begin.  

Amanda Berg 11. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I got into a relationship with someone 6 years older than I was. He was very verbally, mentally, emotionally, physically, and sexually abusive. I have had a hunting rifle pointed at my head and still, to this day, have two scars on my legs due to being cut by knives.

While in that relationship I ended up getting pregnant and having a child. When my child was born he suffered also. When he was a baby, his “dad” stated he locked him in the vehicle ‘properly’ and when I would go to get my child out of the vehicle he would roll out with the car seat and hit his head on the cement. I would get punished for that.

No matter what I did, it was never good enough. I would get “punished” for anything and everything behind closed doors. I remember hiding many bruises and telling myself that if I had done things differently I would have never gotten hurt. I would always try and apologise for everything and tell him that I would make it up to him – just tell me what I can do.

The night I left the relationship was the night he put a knife to my neck while I was nursing my son. I was able to get my son and myself to safety.

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

The night I was able to escape I had two people that intervened: one of them called the police while I ran to hide and the other kept my abuser from running after me.

Once the officers arrived, they let me know that it was fine to come out and that I did not have to worry. My mom was on her way and things would get better. Once I did come out from hiding and my mom showed up and we were able to get things together.

The person that kept my abuser from running after me actually put him under citizen’s arrest. This was after my abuser tried pushing me, my son in my arms, and my mom down the stairs.

The responding officers also told me a day and time to go into the office and file an order for protection.

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

It took some time for me to know that my abuser was no longer around before I finally slowly started to look at things in a positive way. I then moved to a different area because I wanted to start life over for not just myself but also my son. It was a wonderful first step.

While I was in that new area I met a wonderful man who started to support me in my decisions. I went on to college to get my four-year  degree in criminal justice and client services. I currently speak to students in human relation classes and have spoken at a few other places.

I just got accepted for my social work degree and continue to have wonderful support. I found that taking little steps at a time have taken me a long way. It was never easy and I had many breakdowns along the way. My support system has helped me get where I am and I am more willing to share my story more and more.

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

You are a very strong individual who can accomplish anything you put your mind to. Life is not easy at all and don’t be ashamed to speak up. Talk to those you can trust and be open and honest. I understand that it is very scary but resources are available and there are places that can help. Never feel as if it is your fault and if you had done things different things would be better.

There is also always a honeymoon phase. This means that if you leave and promises are made, things will change – if you are lucky – for a few weeks. After that things will go back to the same. It is never easy to just walk away and not turn back. It is even harder when children are involved. It is hard without a support system, and when you think you are going to lose everyone if you leave the relationship, it makes it even harder.

Remember that you don’t deserve to be treated like you are a worthless piece of property. You are a wonderful, beautiful, smart individual who can reach for the stars.

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

I think there will always be problems when it comes to violence against women. People learn what is wrong or right while growing up and if they see that it is something that is generational it will be hard to break.

It is even harder considering some cultures feel that controlling their women is fine, that men need to be in control and the breadwinner. This is not true at all. Men do not need to control those that they love and care about. Women have a mind of their own and can speak up. They do have a voice. I think that as more people realised that abbuse is not right, then more may speak up.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I find that The Pixel Project is a wonderful organisation with so much to offer. It wants to raise awareness about violence against women and this is important since so many choose not to see it. I really like all the different information on their website and wish I was able to see some of this when I was in the relationship that I was in. I also think it is great that men are included in their work because men should understand what they can do to stop abuse. Also for those men that get into a relationship with a survivor it is nice that they have a place to get information.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: Britt Haak, 27, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our second annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2015. The project runs throughout the month of May 2015 and features an interview per day with a survivor of any form of violence against women (VAW) including domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation, forced/child marriage, sex trafficking, breast ironing etc. A total of 31 VAW survivor stories will be featured. This project 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.

This project is also part of a programme of initiatives held throughout 2015 in support of the Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign that is in benefit of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and The Pixel Project. Donate at just US$1 per pixel to reveal the mystery Celebrity Male Role Models and help raise US$1 million for the cause while raising awareness about the important role men and boys play in ending violence against women in their communities worldwide. Donations begin at just US$10 and you can donate via the Pixel Reveal website here or the Pixel Reveal Razoo donation page here.

Our twenty-fourth 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Britt Haak from the U.S.A.

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

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The Survivor Bio:

Britt is a social worker currently working as a mental health and substance abuse counsellor for adolescents in the Seattle area. Britt keeps busy by also coaching volleyball, performing in The Vagina Monologues to promote awareness and fundraising for local domestic violence agencies, and joining various local volunteer projects when there’s spare time. Outside of volunteering and working Britt is often exploring the Pacific Northwest with her dog or creating something usually by knitting, painting, or writing and hopes to one day turn her hobbies into something bigger. Britt’s greatest passion is helping sexual assault survivors on their journeys through recovery.

Britt Haak 11. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I was molested at age 5, date raped at 18, and raped at 20. The molestation occurred by another child whom I considered a cousin as our families were close. My attacker was found guilty and convicted for the crime. At 18, I was at a party and was the only person not drinking alcohol and I no recollection of the assault, only the marks of an assault occurring; I was a virgin. At 20 I was raped by someone I knew from high school, I was held down and forced to stay after the attack.

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

When I was molested I tried escaping but was unsuccessful until my parents called me up from the basement, I was forced to stay in a makeshift bedroom in the basement by my attacker. At 18, I began to get sick and my attacker left me. At 20, I waited until he fell asleep so I could make my escape. Once he started to snore I gently removed his arm from holding me down and sprinted towards the door and to my car.

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

The molestation wrecked my life. I had severe PTSD symptoms and suddenly felt like my eyes were open to all the bad in the world. The more pain I saw in the world, the more I felt compelled to change it. I knew then I wanted to help others who had experienced trauma.

By high school I knew I wanted to be a counsellor and began volunteering and researching as much as I could to learn more about how to help others. By college I was thoroughly committed to helping others and began working towards degrees that would allow me to do so. I also began speaking to friends and family about the attacks. I found my voice and I felt empowered.

I moved to the other side of the country to serve in AmeriCorps and there I found freedom, peace, and confidence. I felt free from my past, peace from the PTSD symptoms, and confidence that I can help others and work towards making changes so that those who have experienced trauma do not have to feel ashamed, broken, or worthless due to what someone else has done to them.

I now have my Masters in Social Work and have extensive experience and training in trauma informed care.

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

To find your voice and the life within you to keep going each day. What was done to you is not your fault. It is your abuser’s shame – their brokenness, and their feelings of being powerless and worthless. You did not ask for this and you do not have to let their shortcomings be your own. It is a tough journey and for each person it is different. However, you are not alone.

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

I believe that rape culture exists and that its pervasiveness is the cause for gender-based violence, therefore to end this violence we must end rape culture. As difficult as it is, survivors need to speak out and get involved in changing our society, policies, and laws. Women need to stop blaming other women and instead stand in solidarity and support.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because I have hope that the more voices that are heard, the more change is possible. I have hope that ending gender-based violence is possible.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: Sandra Pickens, 48, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our second annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2015. The project runs throughout the month of May 2015 and features an interview per day with a survivor of any form of violence against women (VAW) including domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation, forced/child marriage, sex trafficking, breast ironing etc. A total of 31 VAW survivor stories will be featured. This project 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.

This project is also part of a programme of initiatives held throughout 2015 in support of the Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign that is in benefit of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and The Pixel Project. Donate at just US$1 per pixel to reveal the mystery Celebrity Male Role Models and help raise US$1 million for the cause while raising awareness about the important role men and boys play in ending violence against women in their communities worldwide. Donations begin at just US$10 and you can donate via the Pixel Reveal website here or the Pixel Reveal Razoo donation page here.

Our twentieth 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Sandra Pickens from the U.S.A.

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The Survivor Bio:

Sandra D. Pickens, M.S. is a published author, her debut book “Summer Internship,” huge proponent with working with the Native American community in creating awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault issues, and dreams of opening her own transitional women’s facility for survivors of domestic violence and mentally ill single women. After her ordeal and relocation, she went on to continue her education. She joined E.Y.E.S. – an organisation at East Central University, Ada, Oklahoma, that assisted students who were going through domestic violence, partner violence and sexual assault. She was also invited to share her story on a panel with the Department of Justice and was interviewed by Native Times newspaper in 2013. Sandra earned her Master’s in Human Services and graduate honors sash from her tribe, the Chickasaw Nation. In 2010, she did a PSA regarding domestic violence that was to be shown during a presentation by President Obama. She is single, happy, member of the Las Vegas Dream Center/ICLV church and living in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Sandra Pickens1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I come from a background of generational domestic violence and sexual abuse. My ‘picker’ was off in my 20’s and 30’s, always choosing the wrong men. I did not love these men, but I wanted a sense of belonging and put up with the abuse until I would snap and I decided to leave before I end up committing murder.

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

The very last time I was involved in a relationship and domestic violence was in 2005. I was at a truck stop in Phoenix, Arizona and my abuser had left me there for 90 minutes to go be with a prostitute or do drugs. He came back and cursed me and insulted me and I got fed up. He did not like my tone and pulled out a pistol and put it to my head. I told him to pull the trigger because I am tired. I turned my back to him and walked away.

That was the longest walk of my life.

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

That moment I walked away was the moment that changed my life forever. I took a year to make some major decisions in my life. I did not get any counselling, but I turned to my higher power – my God – to help me deal and heal.

On March 7, 2007, I arrived in Oklahoma and started working on Sandra. I spent the next five years not getting involved in serious relationships but learning how to be with myself and enjoy my company and realise that I deserve more in my life from someone else.

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

I would share that you can do bad by yourself. No one can satisfy you, but yourself. Before you can enjoy life, you need to learn to enjoy the company of yourself. You do not have to put up with someone talking and treating you like trash. Learn to be your own woman and take care of you first!

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

If it is generational violence, we need to deal with the abusers to get them out of that mindset that it is okay to hit women. We need to educate our young girls and women that they do not have depend on another person to take care of them and that if someone says they are pretty, that does not necessarily mean that he likes them.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

If this organisation can change at least one life, this is the greatest organisation. Women need to see that they are not going through their situations alone.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: Lindsay Fischer, 32, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our second annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2015. The project runs throughout the month of May 2015 and features an interview per day with a survivor of any form of violence against women (VAW) including domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation, forced/child marriage, sex trafficking, breast ironing etc. A total of 31 VAW survivor stories will be featured. This project 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.

This project is also part of a programme of initiatives held throughout 2015 in support of the Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign that is in benefit of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and The Pixel Project. Donate at just US$1 per pixel to reveal the mystery Celebrity Male Role Models and help raise US$1 million for the cause while raising awareness about the important role men and boys play in ending violence against women in their communities worldwide. Donations begin at just US$10 and you can donate via the Pixel Reveal website here or the Pixel Reveal Razoo donation page here.

Our seventeenth 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Linsday Fischer from 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:

Lindsay Fischer is a former high school English teacher, turned domestic violence author, advocate and public speaker. Over the last four years, she’s written a blog and guest posted across the internet as Sarafina Bianco, even self-publishing her memoir, The House on Sunset, under this name. In April, Lindsay identified herself as the author and furthered her reach by doing trainings with organisations impacted by DV and sharing her story with anyone who will listen. She hopes to humanise abuse, debunking societal myths and detailing trauma. You can find her words and mission at http://survivorswillbeheard.com

 

Lindsay Fischer1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I survived an eighteen-month violent relationship with a sociopath (outwardly successful, handsome and intelligent, but inwardly dangerous), including physical, sexual, emotional, spiritual and financial abuse.

During my relationship, I lost my job. After leaving, I lost my house and car. At twenty seven years old, I was unemployed and homeless, only three years after starting a successful career as a high school English teacher.

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

Before leaving, I feared escaping because I thought he’d kill me if I tried. A few days before I left, he held a gun to my head, telling me, that he loved me so much he could kill me. Then, the day I left, he threw me down a flight of stairs and kicked and choked me on the basement floor. I knew in that moment, that he was going to kill me whether I stayed or left, so I made the choice to leave.

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

For the first year afterward, coping was difficult. I was self-harming and self-medicating to deal with my PTSD. My experience taught me that the aftermath is just as difficult to cope with as the abuse, but I couldn’t afford therapy due to the financial abuse. Searching for a way to heal, I began blogging under my pseudonym.

When other survivors reached out to me, sharing their stories and thanking me for mine, I realised that writing was helping. Along with that, someone wrote me about non-profits who offer free trauma therapy. One Google search later, I found a local group that offered free trauma therapy and called them immediately. The wait list was long, but six months later I started their programme, graduating three years after I began. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitszation and Reprocessing), individual and group therapy were all included.

Sometime during that period, I wrote my book and started a Twitter chat called #domesticviolencechat to reach other survivors. I began teaching again and moved to distance myself from my abuser. The process was long and hard, but absolutely critical to rebuilding.

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

It’s normal to feel alone and normal to question your thoughts, beliefs and actions. Being traumatised shuts down the logical part of your brain, and getting that to work again can be difficult. Look for ways to heal yourself, especially if you can find a non-profit who offers any type of support. You can find these by reaching out to big organisations like NCADV. Even in the painful moments of life after trauma, it’s still more rewarding and worth it than staying in a dangerous environment.

Talk to other people who’ve survived what you have, practice self-care every day, and remember that you’re not alone, you can heal and there are people who want to help.

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

By continuing to have the hard conversations about the existence of VAW and educating society about its prevalence. Our culture doesn’t realsze how engrained VAW is in mainstream life (including media) and we need to be adamant about pointing this out as we continue progressing towards a safer world.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

Because the Pixel Project supports women like me, who’ve survived violence. They also educate society. One look at their mission statement better explains how their purpose aligns with mine. It’s time we stand up, all of us (men and women) against this violence. The Pixel Project helps.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: Kathlene Russell, 58, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our second annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2015. The project runs throughout the month of May 2015 and features an interview per day with a survivor of any form of violence against women (VAW) including domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation, forced/child marriage, sex trafficking, breast ironing etc. A total of 31 VAW survivor stories will be featured. This project 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.

This project is also part of a programme of initiatives held throughout 2015 in support of the Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign that is in benefit of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and The Pixel Project. Donate at just US$1 per pixel to reveal the mystery Celebrity Male Role Models and help raise US$1 million for the cause while raising awareness about the important role men and boys play in ending violence against women in their communities worldwide. Donations begin at just US$10 and you can donate via the Pixel Reveal website here or the Pixel Reveal Razoo donation page here.

Our sixteenth 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Kathlene Russell from the U.S.A.

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 the mother of three beautiful children and grandmother to two handsome boys.  I have a Master’s Degree in guidance and psychological services.  After surviving domestic violence, I began to work in the field of domestic violence awareness and prevention and retired in 2011 as the Executive Director of The Women’s Center, Inc., a domestic and sexual violence centre in Pennsylvania, USA. I now am a small business owner and live a violence-free life near my daughters.

mom1_21. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I experienced domestic violence at the hands of a lethal batterer.  Over the course of four years I sustained numerous injuries, including a broken back.  Upon leaving I was examined at the hospital and the medical record said that my body was “a mass of bruising of various ages.”

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

We – my three children ages 12, 8 and 1 and I – went to the Lancaster Shelter for Abused Women in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. They gave us a safe place to begin our recovery and helped me negotiate the often hostile, always confusing, legal system. I credit them with helping to save my life and the lives of my children.

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

We, my children and I, rebuilt our lives together as a team. While the violence was directed solely at me, my children were obviously affected as witnesses to the violence. We experienced the violence together and worked to heal and rebuild our lives together. Together we became survivors.

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

You are never to blame for the violent acts of another – simply, never. You should never tolerate the abuse or violence of another – simply, never.

I thought all of the things that you are thinking. I thought it was, at least sometimes, my fault.  I was wrong. There is nothing I could have done that would ever justify violence against me. I thought it would get better if I only learned not to do the things that I knew would irritate him. I was wrong. There is nothing I could have done that would make it stop. Every time he beat me I learned to not do the thing that he said made him beat me. But there was always another time, always another thing, that he said would make him beat me.

I thought I was trapped; I thought I could not leave. I was wrong. Yes, I had three children and had no job, no family support. Yes, I was alone. Yes, it was hard. But I did it. Slowly, I put the pieces of my life back together. And my children grew up. And I have never been hit again. I did it, and so can you.

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

There is a great deal that has to happen if we are ever to end violence against women. We have to elect more women to public office. We have to pass the Equal Pay Act. We have to change the cultural bias against women. We have to change our educational system so that girls are not disadvantaged. We have to involve non-offending men in a supportive role to our efforts. But most importantly, we survivors need to keep telling our stories. We cannot allow our voices to be silenced. People need to hear that we are here, that we have suffered and that we have overcome.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because of how vital I think victim and survivor stories are to the movement to end violence against women.  Projects that put survivors and victims front-and-centre are doing the best work possible.