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

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

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

Our 18th  Survivor Stories interview is with Trisa Mattson from the USA.

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

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The Survivor Bio:

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

Wow! Where do we start?

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

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

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

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

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2017: Angela Giles Klocke, 41, USA

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

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

Our 11th  Survivor Stories interview is with Angela Giles Klocke from the USA.

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

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The Survivor Bio:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

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

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2017: 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.