Domestic Violence « Celebrity Role Model Pixel Campaign

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THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2017: Giovanna Ibarra, 31, 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 20th Survivor Stories interview is with Giovanna Ibarra from the USA.

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

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The Survivor Bio:

Giovanna Ibarra is an organiser and writer with over five years of experience in management and coordination of creative campaigns and communications for nongovernmental organisations. She is a survivor of rape and domestic violence who turned her experience into creative campaigns involving music, poetry and art aimed at raising awareness about crimes against humanity, human trafficking, modern day slavery, and violence against women. She has recently been doing victim and survivor advocacy in Mexico.

 

gia-ibarra-31. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence (this may include domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation etc)?

As a child, I was molested – first by a neighbour, later by close family members. When I decided to speak up about each of these incidents, I was not believed, and was told not to mention the events again.

In my late teens, the night my boyfriend raped me at knifepoint was when the coercion, manipulation and daily abuse began. His violent rage perpetuated regular incidents of physical, mental and emotional abuse, torture and rape which ended with me landing in the ER three years later. The police reported the gun he used to attack me was never found in the vehicle – they said I imagined the weapon.

I attended his sentencing on my own. The threats he made by phone were not counted against him during his trial. He was ultimately sentenced to only two-and-a-half years instead of ten through twenty five years for kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault with a weapon.

As I walked out of the court room that morning, an officer said to me: “You’re one of the lucky ones, you should be grateful even for a short sentence.” It took me many years to understand what he meant.

 

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

My abuser wanted to end both our lives through murder-suicide. However, he passed out in the driver’s seat from a heavy drug and alcohol overdose. I managed to sneak out of the car and call the police. Most of the officers who turned up did not believe me but one officer realised that I had been raped, was pregnant and had begun to bleed internally. That officer drove me to the nearest ER. “He saved your life,” the doctors at the ER said. ‘Had you arrived just thirty minutes later, you would have both died.”

After that my abuser was jailed, I was eventually forced to move to California on short notice, leaving behind everything and everyone I knew in Texas due to continued threats to myself and my family, including what could have been another attempted kidnapping. The officer investigating the case was unable to locate the van the kidnappers used and recommended that I move out of the state for my own safety.

 

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

Initially I was in denial and shock. As time went by, I began to fall into a severe depression and dissociation as a way to cope with everything. Then I met the late Steve Graham, the founder of ACT (Against Child Trafficking), who taught me that we can turn our suffering into positive action. Giving back to society, faith in God and music sustained and healed me. The support of my family and close friends helped me to slowly rebuild my life.

I also became my own victim advocate after the Texas Department of Criminal Justice refused to grant a new restraining order that could be used in California if needed. They said I was on my own and in charge of my own safety. My advocacy led to several months’ extension of my abuser’s prison term in addition to receiving an apology over the phone from the director of deportations at the Texas/Mexico border for not having checked for prior incidents of violence committed by my abuser. Their mistake could have cost me my life.

I have since found ways to help others through creative advocacy.

 

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

To young women who are dating someone who they feel unsafe with: Listen to your intuition and leave the relationship before it gets violent because it often does.

To the women already in a manipulative or coercive and violent relationship: Ask for help immediately. Remove yourself from the relationship, from the environment you are currently living in, and place distance between yourself and the abuser. Don’t be afraid to let go and never look back.

Educate yourself about abuse. The mistake I made was my lack of education and awareness about the issue. The Pixel Project offers more information on the signs of an abusive relationship and ways to escape and receive support.

 

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

Ending violence against women is a cycle that requires understanding that women and girls have the right to life, health, education and basic life skills, mentoring and support.

The real work begins at home, in schools, and the community to educate young boys and girls to respect and value one another. We need to teach at-risk girls and women about the signs of an abusive relationship in schools, at the local clinics they attend, and wherever they may otherwise be able to receive support.

We also need better training for police and first responders that still believe that a woman needs to look abused or display certain signs in order to receive support in order for an arrest to be made.

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

The Pixel Project provides women and girls worldwide with access to vital life-saving online resources and information. I myself learned about coercion and domestic violence through the Pixel Project’s website.

Their founder Regina Yau and all-volunteer team have supported my healing journey through their online activism campaigns to educate the public about violence against women while providing positive and empowering messages for millions of survivors. I have also volunteered with Pixel Project to support their Music for Pixels campaigns.

 

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2017: Honey LeBlanc, 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 19th Survivor Stories interview is with Honey LeBlanc from the USA. 

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The Survivor Bio:

I am a wife and mother of four children. This year marks my twentieth year as a teacher and my twenty-second year free from domestic violence. My passion is a summer camp for children and adults with special needs that I helped start 3 summers ago. The majority of my free time is spent doing service projects and events for people with special needs or with teenagers.

 

honey-leblanc_cropped1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence (this may include domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation etc)?

My first husband was an abuser. It started out mild but quickly escalated to actual violence.

The physical violence started when I was pregnant, but the emotional abuse started well before I became pregnant. He was the classic abuser: started out flattering me, moved to isolating me through controlling behaviors, escalated to physical violence, and ended up with me wondering if I would make it out alive.

 

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

One day, when my daughter was 2 I had simply reached the point where something had to give. I was working at the police department as a desk clerk and realised that it simply couldn’t go on. I had friends in the department who didn’t fall for my lies about my split lip or bruise. They gave me the courage, or maybe I was so deeply ashamed, that I decided to do something about it.

 

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

After kicking my husband out, I began reporting the behaviours to the police. I didn’t allow myself to fall for his lies about how sorry he was. I followed through with the divorce and fought him every step of the way for custody of my daughter. Standing up for myself helped me to realise that I was strong enough to get out. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.

Two years later, when I realised that he was repeating the cycle with his new wife, I called her and tried to get her to leave. I had remarried by that time and my new husband (with whom I am about to celebrate 19 totally violence-free years of marriage) offered to go get her from the house while my ex was out. At that point she refused to leave, but the seed must have been planted because a year or so later she called me when she too had met her breaking point. Together, she and I, along with my husband, have raised our daughter. We have forged a new, albeit totally non-traditional, family that does not involve violence.

 

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

I would say that you are strong enough. You are good enough. You can find your own way. Find people who are good for you, who believe you and believe in you. Report the violence every single time and keep records.

 

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

Part of ending violence against women is empowering women and girls to speak up for themselves and to realise that they aren’t alone.

I tell my story to my students when the opportunity arises (in a way that is appropriate for the classroom), and every time I tell it without fail a student says, “You don’t seem like the type of woman that happens to.” I always tell them that there is no type of woman that it happens to.

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support the Pixel Project because it is so very important to get our stories out there so that other women know they are not alone and that you can escape from the situation.

 

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: Margaret Finger, 62, 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 17th  Survivor Stories interview is with Dr. Margaret Finger 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 was born in Austin, Texas, and lived there most of my life. In 1976, I received my B.S. in OT from the University of Texas. As an occupational therapist for 36 years, I treated patients from one day old to 104 years. After being a clinical instructor for 25 years, I began my doctoral programme at Creighton University in 2010 and graduated December of 2014. I have three adult children, six grandchildren, and Beaker, my beloved cockatiel. I enjoy music, dancing, crocheting, and love sunset walks on the beach. Fall is my favorite season because of cool weather and football.

 

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

While awaiting acceptance into a DV shelter, I was given an intake interview. It contained four types of violence, and I was a victim of all four:

Early in my 36- year marriage, there were three incidences of physical violence. At first I believed him when he said that it would never happen again. After my children witnessed one incident, I threatened to leave him. I was treated for depression twice. I admitted to a counsellor that I was in an abusive situation.  She said to read the book “Co-dependent No More” and gave me homework: I was to talk with a local domestic violence shelter. If another man complimented me, my husband would take me home and sodomise me. There were times he stole from me, and we went through two bankruptcies. He lost two jobs because he threatened to kill his supervisors.

But the pivotal moment was when two law enforcement officers and my best girlfriend were begging me to leave because it was apparent to them that he would kill me if I stayed. At this point he was telling me that if I left him he “would hunt me down like an animal and kill me”.

 

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

The shelters in my state wouldn’t accept me due to my disability.  I made a search to locate a shelter, and found one in another state.

An elaborate plan was put into motion and an “underground railroad” created to evacuate me to another state where I could get help.  My best friend who had 15 years in the military and a concealed gun license picked me up at work. She took me to another city to meet a couple I had never met.  I was taken to their home in the middle of a 200-acre ranch until arrangements could be made to get me safely out of the state.

My friend destroyed my cell phone and gave me a new one so that only those involved in the evacuation could reach me.  She said that abusers reported their wives missing and endangered so the police would assist in finding them.

I was driven 90 miles from my home and put on a plane.  When I got on, I didn’t know where I was going.  I left everything behind and only had a backpack.  I was very scared.  After landing, I was taken to a hotel– a safety net for the DV shelter.  They accepted me.

 

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

The shelter found attorneys to put a permanent protective order in place.  They assisted me with obtaining emergency food stamps and applying for Social Security Disability.  They helped me orient myself to the bus transportation system.  They provided both group and individual counselling.  I was helped to get medical injuries treated and file a police report. They helped get into a victims’ protection programme where I could receive my mail without it being traced.

During this, time I learned a lot about myself.  I struggled with night terrors and PTSD.  I researched both of these symptoms in order to learn how to help myself heal. It is truly my opinion that I would not have done as well as I did without the shelter’s support.

I moved into my apartment and in two months re-entered my doctorate programme.  It has been five years since I left the shelter and my life is so happy.  I got the opportunity to teach and loved it!  I am in a relationship with someone whom I have known since I was 12.  I have a wealth of good friends.  I do not have to be afraid in my own home.

 

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

If you or someone you know is in a domestic violence relationship, never give up hope.  Continue to ask for help and it will happen.  Find the closest domestic violence shelter so the professionals can facilitate a safe evacuation.  If you know someone that is going through this, educate them and support them.  If it had not been for my two friends, I would have not made it.

In addition, if you are single and dating, especially using online dating services, please be aware of the issues I have discussed.  You might want to run a background check on potential romantic partners.

I say this because a couple of years after I left my now ex-husband, my sister noticed that he had created a Facebook page where he was a retired CEO of a company.  He had photo-shopped a picture of his half- sister together with him– she does not like him.  He had photos of children he said were his grandchildren and they weren’t.  The entire page was false.  Our assumption was that he had set it up for a dating service.  If someone were to complete a background check on him they would find a felony, assault charges, DWI and a permanent protective order.

 

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

Honestly, I don’t believe that it is possible to completely end violence. However, as in most other cases, the best strategy to reduce violence is education and empowerment. I volunteer for DVACK here in Salina, and am on a new organisation, Partnership To Reduce Violence. Recently, Jana’s Campaign came to KWU for an educational presentation. There is a community-wide event planned in a few weeks to support victims of crime.

No matter what you are told, no one deserves to be disrespected or a victim of violence. Being aware of the red flags in your relationships, starting from teen dating, can help prevent an escalation into abuse. Saying something when you see any abuse or violence is crucial.

Most importantly, don’t just think that this is none of your business, that it will go away, or that there is nothing you can do to help.

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

This is my first hearing about The Pixel Project. Anything and anyone who supports victims and survivors of domestic violence has my support. I am going to explore more about The Pixel Project to see how I can support it.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2017: Tammy Enlow, 45, USA

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

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

Our 16th  Survivor Stories interview is with Tammy Enlow from the USA.

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

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The Survivor Bio:

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

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

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2017: Hayley Paige, 33, United Kingdom

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

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

Our 15th Survivor Stories interview is with Hayley Paige from the United Kingdom.

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

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The Survivor Bio:

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

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

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2017: Brittany Barlow, 26, USA

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

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

Our 13th Survivor Stories interview is with Brittany Barlow from the USA.

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

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The Survivor Bio:

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

I have done A LOT of things:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Survivor Bio:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

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

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2017: Trisha Williams, 49 , USA

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

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

Our 10th Survivor Stories interview is with Trisha Williams from the USA.

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

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The Survivor Bio:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

I escaped to a safe haven the next day.

 

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

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

 

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

Through thorough counselling and prayer.

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

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

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

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

 

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

Leave:

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

 

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

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

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

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

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

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2017: Christie Edmisten, 38, USA

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

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

Our 8th  Survivor Stories interview is with Christie Edmisten from the USA.

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The Survivor Bio:

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

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