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

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

  • VAW survivors a platform to share their stories and solutions/ideas on how they rebuilt their lives and healed/are healing.
  • Girls and women currently experiencing or who have survived VAW ideas, hope, and inspiration to escape the violence and know that there is light at the tunnel and there is help out there.

Our 21st Survivor Stories interview is with Cassandra Pullman from the United Kingdom.

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

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The Survivor Bio:

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because:

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

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

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2017: 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: 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.