Posts tagged Rape

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: Lauren Reid, 30, Canada

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

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

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

Our fourth 2015 Survivor Stories interview, in partnership with When You Are Ready,  is with Lauren Reid from Canada. 

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The Survivor Bio:

Lauren Reid is the founder of the When You’re Ready Project, an online community for survivors of sexual violence to share their stories and connect with one another. Since launching the Project in December 2014, she has discovered a new passion for activism and a source for healing in her connections with other survivors. Lauren travels frequently for her “day job” as a data privacy software director, but when she’s home in Toronto she is usually either curled up with her dog and a good book, or in the yoga studio. Originally from Oregon, she has lived in Montana, San Francisco, Amsterdam, London, and Toronto, and continues to enjoy traveling all over the world. Her most recent adventure was to India, and her favourite cities (so far) are Florence, Istanbul, and Oviedo, Spain.


Lauren Reid 
1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I was raped three times, and all three times by men I knew and trusted. The first time was in high school, I had been drinking and an older boy – the brother of a friend – attacked me at a party. Afterwards, everyone called me a slut. I went to college at the University of Montana, where a few years later it happened again – this time, at a fraternity. I was devastated to learn that my boyfriend at the time had given his friend permission to rape me. Just two years later, someone else from the same fraternity drugged me and raped me in my own bed.

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

I didn’t really “escape” the situation until almost 15 years later. Each time I was raped, it happened very quickly and even though I tried to get away I couldn’t. Afterwards, I was too ashamed to do anything but lie there and cry – I wanted to hide and never come out. For over a decade I suffered in silence, keeping it a secret and trying to ignore the effect it was having on my life. It wasn’t until recently, when I broke my silence, that I truly felt free from the events.

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

Writing has always been an outlet for me and continues to be. Also – I tend to keep moving. I moved from Montana to San Francisco where I dedicated myself to volunteering. I spent my time trying to help others to ease my guilt and curb the self-loathing.

Next, I found my passion for travel – I moved to Amsterdam and spent a few years traveling around Europe and finally opening up to other people I met during my time there.

Finally, I moved to Toronto where I discovered Yoga which helped me love and respect my body again. But what truly helped me heal was founding the When You’re Ready Project and becoming an activist, connecting with other survivors and finally beginning to explore the emotions I’d hidden away for so many years.

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

Talk about it, write about it – find a way to get it out. Our brains process trauma in mysterious ways – so many that science doesn’t even yet understand – but many survivors report feeling alone, scared, blaming themselves, or distorting or suppressing the memories. I did all of those things; and still suffer from many symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Even if you’re not ready to report to law enforcement, find someone to talk to. You will be astonished by how many women who have experienced the same thing.

When I finally shared my story, I learned that some of my best friends had been suffering too – we were right next to one another and hurting but couldn’t bring ourselves to talk about it. My real healing began when I wrote my story and read it back the first time. Since then it has been a roller coaster but all leading toward me finding peace with what happened to me.

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

Some people still deny that violence against women is an issue – they rationalise their ignorance by questioning the limited statistics available on its prevalence, by attacking the studies that point to a problem.

The real problem is that we still have to conduct studies and surveys in order to get information because women aren’t safe coming forward. We have to make it safe for women by believing them and supporting them, by ending the stigma, and putting a stop to victim blaming. We do that by talking, talking, talking – bringing the issue out of the shadows and into the light. Only once we have collectively acknowledged the problem can we try to solve it.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because this group is taking on a massive issue. I get overwhelmed just thinking about my own experience and those of the women I know; but The Pixel Project tackles all forms of violence against women all over the globe. It breaks my heart to think about how women around the world are being mistreated but it lifts my spirits to think about the dedicated work that The Pixel Project and others like it are doing.

SURVIVOR STORIES 2015: Julie Medina, 45, USA

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

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

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

Our second 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Julie Medina from the U.S.A.

TRIGGER WARNING: The first two Q&As in this interview may be distressing for some rape and sexual assault survivors.

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The Survivor Bio:

Julie L. Medina, J.D, is a prosecuting attorney specialising in the prosecution of domestic violence and sexual assault cases.  She is a graduate from Creighton University School of Law where she received the “Outstanding Service to the Law School” award for her Speak Out programme, which educates students on sexual assault and domestic violence.  During her programme, she shares her own personal story as a 16-year rape survivor which happened at the hands of one of her male bosses while she was at work.  Since 2007, her program has reached over 17,000 students.  Julie also works throughout the community training and educating professionals, and has received multiple community awards in recognition for her continued work and advocacy to end violence against women.

Julie Medina_cropped1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I was raped on December 11, 1997 by one of my bosses.  At the time I was working as the Administrative Assistant at a major paint corporation for several of the sales managers including this individual.  My rapist had worked for the company for over 25 years and had sexually harassed woman for years.  The women in the company had complained for years. Many quit but the company did nothing about it.

Within a week of my starting with the company he began his pattern of abuse.  He would come up behind me, touch me, touch intimate areas, rub my neck, and trap me in closets, copier rooms, anywhere that would allow him to do his touching.  He made it so we were alone in the building without my knowledge on December 11, 1997, and raped me.  It was 25 of the worst, most terrifying minutes of my life.  I was strangled during part of it, he cut part of my hair with a letter opener, he threatened to kill me, to find me and do it again and warned me how no one would believe me over him.   He forced me to look at him the entire time and if I looked away he would physically force me to look at him.  Power, control, humiliation is all this crime is about and that was clear in what he did and how he did it.

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

I forgot my rape for almost 2 years but had every symptom of PTSD and Rape Trauma Syndrome.  I continued to work for the company and he continued to escalate the harassment.  The four of us women in the sales office finally decided to complain one more time to management. The company protected him and fired us.

In the investigation of the harassment when I had to tell all the harassment over and over I found I began to have flashbacks of the rape.  This would lead me to where I had hidden my clothes that night and a journal I kept.  When I found those items, it sent most of the memories of the rape flooding back.  I had evidence on the clothes but by then it was too late to prosecute since the Statute of Limitations had expired.

We hired a lawyer who fought for us and eventually my rapist was let go from the company.  He then stalked me horribly for almost a year including breaking into my apartment and leaving the hair he cut that night on my bedroom pillow.  I moved, but he followed me.  I moved again, and this time was able to escape from him and was able to go back to school for my law degree.

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

It was hard at first because he was stalking me and I suffered from PTSD, flashbacks, horrible panic attacks and anxiety.  I had a dream to become a prosecutor so I found that strength within myself and I went back to college, got my degree, went to law school and became a prosecutor specialising in prosecuting crimes of domestic violence and sexual assault.  I could not put him away in jail so now I fight to put away those who commit these crimes and bring justice for victims.  I also found my voice and began speaking about my experience to whoever would listen.

Initially, I tried counselling but it did not work for me.  What did work for me was talking to other survivors and sharing my experience and meditation and relaxation techniques for the anxiety.  I focused on the strength I had found within myself to continue to heal.  In the past year, because of speaking so much about the rape, the remaining, most violent parts of it have come back to me.  This time though, I knew what I needed to do to handle it.  I confided in trusted friends and fellow survivors and for the first time I truly found the strength in myself to ask for help and again tried therapy.  This time I found an amazing therapist who has helped me and continues to help me heal and move on from this experience.

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

You absolutely can survive this!  What happened to you is part of your life experience but it does not define the amazing person that you are.  Recovery is your journey, your road, and know that there is no timeline for it.  You can have a few bumps and “roundabouts” in that road.  These are not “setbacks” but just a small detour in that road.  We all have them but then we get back on that road.  Just know that you are not alone and you are “normal”.

There are so many members in this club who understand and who are walking that road beside you.   Remember what happened was not your fault.  We all have obstacles in our lives, it is how we deal with those obstacles that defines us.   This experience will show you that you can do anything you want to do, that you are stronger than you ever thought possible.  Dream your dreams and go grab them and make them a reality!  Live your life, do not ‘just exist’.  You have come this far, anything is possible!

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

Education, education and more education!  I developed a programme called “Speak Out” where I go into the area middle school, high schools and colleges with a co-presenter who is a domestic violence survivor to educate students about domestic violence and sexual assault.  What I have found is that this rape culture has already infested children at ages as young as 10.  We need to send the message to stop blaming the victim and to put the blame on the perpetrator where it belongs.  Many of these young men also are never taught boundaries, respect, and what consent really is.  If we begin to get society talking about these crimes, to not to be embarrassed about these issues but rather to talk about it, we could stop so many of the myths and misconceptions surrounding these crimes.   Ending the myths would help others see these crimes for what they are – crimes of power, control, humiliation where the fault is the perpetrators and the predators alone.  We can then stand together and make these individuals accountable through changes in laws and penalties for committing these crimes.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

The Pixel Project’s mission is the same as my own:  to educate and get people talking about violence against woman.  Even in 2015, we as a society are so afraid to talk about these issues.  As I stated above, the key to ending violence is education of all society but especially our young woman and men.   The best way to achieve this goal is widespread education through technology using stories from survivors and other examples from pop culture to show individuals how the rape culture bombards their lives every day.  I highly support the ideals and mission of The Pixel Project!

CALL TO ACTION: The Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project 2015

Blog and PenIn honour of Mother’s Day 2015,  The Pixel Project cordially invites women and girls who have survived gender-based violence to join our second annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project.

The project will feature an interview with a survivor per day on The Pixel Project’s blog throughout the month of May 2015. A total of 31 survivor stories will be featured and the focus of the interviews would be on how survivors have rebuilt their lives and/or healed from the violence.

The Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project is created to:

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

This project is also part of a programme of initiatives held throughout 2015 in support of the Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign which aims to:

  • Raise US$1 million for NCADV and The Pixel Project to fund our respective programmes, project and campaigns to end violence against women and girls.
  • Raise awareness about the role of men and boys in helping stop violence against women in their communities through highlighting the importance of positive non-violent prominent male role models.

Survivors of any form of violence against women including domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation, acid attacks, sex trafficking, breast ironing, and forced marriage/child marriage, are welcome to participate. Survivors may also come from any part of the world.

The interview will take the form of filling in a short Word-format interview form in English; then returning it to The Pixel Project by emailing it to info@thepixelproject.net or pixelprojectteam@gmail.com by the deadline of 31 March 2015.

To download the interview sheet, click this link:

 http://reveal.thepixelproject.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/The-Pixel-Project-Survivor-Stories-Project-Interview-Sheet-2015.doc

For further information and assistance:

Email The Pixel Project team – info@thepixelproject.net

For more information about The Pixel Project: 

Visit http://www.thepixelproject.net

For more information about The Pixel Project’s Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign:

Visit http://reveal.thepixelproject.net

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT: Carol Wilson, 42, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present the Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2014. The project runs throughout the month of May 2014 and features an interview per day with a survivor of any form of violence against women (VAW) including domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation, forced/child marriage, sex trafficking, breast ironing etc. A total of 31 VAW survivor stories will be featured. This project was created to provide:

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

This project is also part of a programme of initiatives held throughout 2014 in support of the Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign that is in benefit of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and The Pixel Project. Donate at just US$1 per pixel to reveal the mystery Celebrity Male Role Models and help raise US$1 million for the cause while raising awareness about the important role men and boys play in ending violence against women in their communities worldwide. Donations begin at just US$10 and you can donate via the Pixel Reveal website here or the Pixel Reveal Razoo donation page here.

Our twenty-seventh Survivor Stories interview is with Carol Wilson from the U.S.A.

TRIGGER WARNING: The first two segments of this interview may be triggering to some survivors of rape.

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The Survivor Bio:

Carol Wilson currently works in a victim services programme, where she has been Programme Director for over ten years. She has an Associates of Arts, Bachelor of Arts, and a Master’s Degree, and has received numerous hours of training in sexual and domestic violence, and stalking, as well as training and responding to victims of trauma. Seven years ago, she was sexually assaulted by a colleague and a trusted best friend of an ex-boyfriend. Following the assault, Carol Wilson continued to work in victim services, helping others rebuild their lives following criminal victimisation.

Carol Wilson 21. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I was sexually assaulted by my ex-boyfriend’s best friend, someone I also considered a friend. I knew him through work, we had attended several social functions together, and I spoke with him often about work-related matters and my recent break-up. He came into my house under false pretences of breaking up with his girlfriend and needing to talk, but shortly after arriving, he physically picked me up, carried me into my spare bedroom, forcibly removed my loose-fitting pants and raped me.

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

I said, “No,” and struggled to get away at first, but he held me down by his weight and my body was pushed up against pillows stacked against the bed headboard, so I could not squirm away. Eventually, I realised I could not fight it and just laid still. That’s when he stopped. I then pretended like everything was normal until I could get away from him.

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

At first, it took me a long time to acknowledge that a professional colleague and someone I considered a close friend had raped me. I had difficulty sleeping and tried to numb the pain with alcohol, and sought solace in short-term relationships that were doomed to fail. I felt guilty for not coming forward because I knew he was a sexual predator, but I knew how difficult it would be to prove the case given his job, his standing, and my reaction of “playing normal” following the assault. It took me several months, but I eventually started to return to normal. For me, I made the choice to NOT try to avoid him. It was important for me to feel like he hadn’t won, had not chased me from our social circle or my job. Also, I eventually told someone who was supportive and that helped me logically understand that the assault was not my fault. Over time, I have integrated that experience into who I am as a person and can speak about it more freely without pain.

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

First, I wish I had been more cautious about letting this person into my home. Even though I thought I knew him, I realised in retrospect that there had been warning signs that this might happen – please, please, please trust your instincts! Rapists are master manipulators who can get close to you to learn how you think, your fears, and your weaknesses to not only gain access to you at a vulnerable time, but to use subtle controls to keep you from making an outcry. If you do find yourself in this situation, do whatever you feel you need to do to survive with the least physical, emotional, and psychological damage. Don’t try to hold your story in; don’t try to control the pain yourself. That is a road that leads to more darkness that you might regret once you regain yourself and equilibrium. Find someone you can confide in and let it out – the betrayal, the shock, the fears, the anger, the pain. For me, it was like a festering boil – once I began to be able to write and talk about it, some of the pressure was released. Whatever happens, however, remember that rape is NEVER the victim’s fault. Don’t carry that sense of blame and shame with you. It will destroy your spirit.

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

The solution ultimately rests with controlling or stopping the rapist. As so many of these predators often go undetected for years with a trail of victims in their wake, it is obvious that controlling the perpetrators is not an easy answer, especially when so few are arrested and even fewer are convicted due to societal myths and disbeliefs about what rape is. Rape is a societal problem. We must teach all people that nobody is an object to be used. We must educate young men that rape is not the “norm.” We must educate the population as a whole about what sexual assault is, how it affects the victim, and how to intervene in situations that suggest a victim is not consenting or awake/aware of what is going on. Sexual assault is a terrible, life-stealing crime. It has remained a silent, taboo topic for too long.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

Sexual assault has been in the shadows for too long. It’s time to realise that it doesn’t happen to “them” or “that kind of woman,” but can happen to any woman – our mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, neighbours, coworkers. It can even happen to people educated about sexual assault, and rape trauma can happen to those who have received training in reactions that occur following sexual violations. We don’t blame people who have their car stolen for having a car. Why do we blame rape victims for being raped because they were walking alone, drank alcohol, wore a “short” dress or have genitalia? Women everywhere are being sexually assaulted and sitting alone in silence due to fear of blame and judgement of social circles and media, and fear of not being believed by police or the courts. By helping society understand that rape can happen to any women, The Pixel Project will begin to undo some of the damaging messages about rape victims, help make our society a better place for justice for those who have suffered this most grievous indignation, and begin to create a climate where sexual offenders cannot hide.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT: Karen Caroll, 58, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present the Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2014. The project runs throughout the month of May 2014 and features an interview per day with a survivor of any form of violence against women (VAW) including domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation, forced/child marriage, sex trafficking, breast ironing etc. A total of 31 VAW survivor stories will be featured. This project was created to provide:

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

This project is also part of a programme of initiatives held throughout 2014 in support of the Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign that is in benefit of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and The Pixel Project. Donate at just US$1 per pixel to reveal the mystery Celebrity Male Role Models and help raise US$1 million for the cause while raising awareness about the important role men and boys play in ending violence against women in their communities worldwide. Donations begin at just US$10 and you can donate via the Pixel Reveal website here or the Pixel Reveal Razoo donation page here.

Our twenty-fifth Survivor Stories interview is with Karen Caroll from the U.S.A.

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The Survivor Bio:

Karen D. Caroll has been a licensed Registered Nurse in the state of New York for more than 35 years. She has made numerous presentations throughout the state on the topics of sexual assault, forensic examiner programmes, and her personal experience as a survivor of marital rape. Ms. Caroll appears as one of five women in Fear No More: Stop Violence Against Women, a documentary shown on Lifetime Television in 2002, and her story is featured on four websites: www.raisinghervoice.com, www.voicesofcourage.com, www.voicesandfaces.org, and Project Stand at http://nobukoonline.com. She has two sons and four grandchildren.

Karen Carroll1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

In 1994, I was tied, gagged, and raped at knife point by my then-husband at the time. He had been removed from my home by court order three weeks earlier when he pulled a knife on me during an argument. As a young child, I witnessed physical violence between my mother and father. My mother, one of the strongest women I know, passed away on Mother’s day in 2002. Sharing my story is how I honour her experience.

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

Having been exposed to domestic violence very early in my life, I grew up believing that I would never allow a man to hit me. When my husband pulled a knife on me during an argument, I knew immediately that I had to get an order of protection. As a nurse in the emergency department, I had advised countless women on keeping safe in abusive relationships. I knew that I could not live with a man that I was afraid may hurt me one day.

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

Once my husband was arrested, tried, and convicted of rape, he was sent to prison. I was given an opportunity to speak publicly about my ordeal within 6 months. Speaking publicly was so motivating and helped me to realise that women need to hear that their life is not over. I have never spoken publicly where someone, usually women, have not come forward to say “the same thing happened to me.” I learned that 1994 did not happen to me because of what I did, but because of everything that I will do!

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

I have always advised women who have been in situations similar to mine to find a way to turn their mess into a message. Don’t be afraid to confide in someone you trust or talk to someone anonymously on a hotline. There are so many of us out there and knowing that you are not alone can be so empowering.

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

I encourage everyone to speak out whenever there is an opportunity to do so. Don’t be a bystander; don’t sit by and listen when inappropriate comments are made. I believe that education and outreach to women, men, girls, and boys are the key. This is not a woman’s issue; it is a civil rights and public health issue. When we raise our children to respect everyone’s person and property, when we begin to break down the barriers of sexism, when we speak publicly about violence against women and hold perpetrators accountable, we will begin to make a dent in this global issue.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

The Pixel Project reaches millions of people with their online campaigns, including the Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project. I am committed to helping other women realise that they are beautiful, strong, and do not deserve to be abused. Perhaps my story will inspire someone to live their life to its fullest.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT: Coral Anika Theill, Over 21, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present the Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2014. The project runs throughout the month of May 2014 and features an interview per day with a survivor of any form of violence against women (VAW) including domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation, forced/child marriage, sex trafficking, breast ironing etc. A total of 31 VAW survivor stories will be featured. This project was created to provide:

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

This project is also part of a programme of initiatives held throughout 2014 in support of the Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign that is in benefit of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and The Pixel Project. Donate at just US$1 per pixel to reveal the mystery Celebrity Male Role Models and help raise US$1 million for the cause while raising awareness about the important role men and boys play in ending violence against women in their communities worldwide. Donations begin at just US$10 and you can donate via the Pixel Reveal website here or the Pixel Reveal Razoo donation page here.

Our twenty-first Survivor Stories interview is with Coral Anika Theill from the U.S.A.

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The Survivor Bio:

Coral Anika Theill is a survivor of childhood molestation and abuse, rape, domestic violence, marital rape, spiritual abuse, and nearly twenty years of “legal stalking” and judicial injustice. Coral’s published works address abuse and trauma recovery and, most recently, wounded Marines and Montford Point Marines. Her memoir, BONSHEÁ Making Light of the Dark, has been used as a college text for nursing students at Linfield College, Portland, Oregon. She believes, “When we can truly embrace our pain and suffering and are able to be authentically grateful for our wounds and the brutality that we may have endured, we become ‘healed healers.’” For more information on Coral Anika Theill, visit www.coralanikatheill.com.

Coral Annika Theill 21. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

What I experienced in my childhood and my marriage, as well as within the churches and court system, amounts to nothing less than hate crimes with a gender bias. In the course of my marriage, I was drawn against my will into several extreme Christian cults that emphasised patriarchal authority and the obedience of women. I was treated as a possession, a slave. Physical exhaustion, birth trauma, and a home environment that gave no support contributed to my mental and physical collapse in April 1993. Two years before I finally escaped from my husband, I suffered a breakdown – a partial stroke and severe depression – after the birth of my seventh child. While nearly catatonic, my husband forced me to have sex – his ‘right’ in the marriage, but rape to me – and I became pregnant again. After the birth of my eighth child, I recovered physically and mentally, and divorced my husband. When I learned my two younger daughters were being molested by a member of our family, I sought safety for my 8 children and myself. Within a year, my three youngest children were forcibly removed by the courts and given to my ex-husband. In fact, I lost custody of all 8 children, and have not seen them for 16 years.

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

I learned that true freedom begins that day we walk away from fear, scarcity, blame, and guilt. I legally changed my name and entered a state address protection programme in 1999 and participated in counseling with a trusted mentor for several years, as well as stayed connected with supportive friends. As I began to seek the truth that would create wholeness for me, mentors and friends assisted me in remembering who I truly was apart from my trauma. They taught me how to respect and honour the sacredness of my being.

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

I began journaling and later published my memoir, BONSHEA Making Light of the Dark. Through writing, I created what is called a “healing crisis.” My greatest coping tool I possessed was my own still, quiet voice – my intuition. As I began to listen to my own inner voice, the lights within me turned back on and I became more aware of myself and the world around me. I value this gift – intuition – because it has never failed me. To heal properly, I discovered it was important to pick up the pieces I had left behind. This process is different for everyone, but the result is the same: you will, once again, discover your true essence. I believe that to heal from our trauma, we must be able to tell the absolute truth and face it squarely. Your trauma is not who you are, it is just what happened to you. In my quiet times, I still feel moments of raw pain from my past. I look at it for what it is: a catalyst for me to find the sacredness of my inner being, to realise more of myself and who I truly am. I believe how we think and act and how beautifully our spirit responds to our challenges is all that matters.

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

Keeping secrets binds up our energy and impacts our health and well-being. Once secrets are exposed to the light, they lose their power over you. I recommend seeking help through a trusted mentor or licensed counselor. If you think of yourself as a victim and are unable to move past this view, you won’t recover. If you see the violence only as a horrible event that happened to you and not allow it to prevent you from redefining your experience with a new spiritual outlook, you will recover. Choose life; move forward – with or without justice. Most victims have to recover without the conscience of their communities, cultures, and countries validating their story, without justice, and without restitution. I truly believe, though, that we are victimised twice if we do not seek justice. The journey of healing is a personal one for each individual and is not to be judged. The balancing act of trusting your own boundaries and recognising where people are in their development is a continual lesson in life.

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

New legislation that would promote safety and wellness for women, children, and families involved in domestic violence is needed. In our society, domestic violence is encouraged and condoned by patriarchal religious organisations. Women and children are taught shame, fear, guilt, and that the patriarchal hierarchy must be lived out in the homes. The courts are an extension of our patriarchal heritage that views women as less valuable than men. As long as we continue to condone those in power who harm and victimise innocent people, then we will continue to witness injustices against those who are vulnerable and unable to protect and defend themselves. Our judicial system needs our voice so that injustices that others and I have suffered will not continue. I believe that the only way to move things is to speak the truth in the face of fear. A victim’s first scream is for help; a victim’s second scream is for justice.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because they recognise the importance of raising awareness about the role of men and boys in helping to stop violence against women in their communities. By promoting positive role models and healthy masculinity, young boys and men can learn to use their strength to help create communities free from violence. I believe in inspiring young men to create their own positive definitions of masculinity, manhood, and strength, to embrace the concept of personal responsibility, and replace risky and violent masculine attitudes and behaviours with attitudes of respect of the self and others. Young men will translate their learning into community leadership and help to do their part to end violence and build safe communities.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT: Angeline Phillips, Beyond 21, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present the Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2014. The project runs throughout the month of May 2014 and features an interview per day with a survivor of any form of violence against women (VAW) including domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation, forced/child marriage, sex trafficking, breast ironing etc. A total of 31 VAW survivor stories will be featured. This project was created to provide:

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

This project is also part of a programme of initiatives held throughout 2014 in support of the Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign that is in benefit of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and The Pixel Project. Donate at just US$1 per pixel to reveal the mystery Celebrity Male Role Models and help raise US$1 million for the cause while raising awareness about the important role men and boys play in ending violence against women in their communities worldwide. Donations begin at just US$10 and you can donate via the Pixel Reveal website here or the Pixel Reveal Razoo donation page here.

Our eighteenth Survivor Stories interview is with Angeline Phillips from the U.S.A.

TRIGGER WARNING: The first segment of this interview may be triggering for some survivors of domestic violence.

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The Survivor Bio:

KyUnPum (Angeline A. Phillips) is a lifetime resident of Satus, WA and an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. She graduated from a public high school where students of colour were labelled poverty stricken and given limited opportunities of success. At 22, KyUnPum became a mother. The father had abusive behaviour, forcing her to become a single parent of three. When her children were teenagers, she enrolled in Heritage University as a full-time student while working as a full-time counselor with the Yakama Nation Domestic Violence Programme. After graduating with honours from Heritage, she continued providing domestic violence victims’ counseling and facilitating men and women’s perpetrator re-education programmes using the Moral Reconation Therapy workbook. Currently, KyUnPum is the Yakama Nation Probation Officer and Supervisor. Her accomplishments include being the first enrolled Yakama to complete the Tribal Probation Academy, being recognised by the Women Spirit Coalition as a 2011 Envision Award Recipient in Eliminating Violence Against Native Women, and promoting the wellbeing of Native Families and Communities. She is the youngest of 14 siblings, the mother of three children, and the grandmother of four.

Angeline Phillips1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I was repeatedly called disrespectful names until I began to believe that he was right. When he first punched me, I didn’t fight back. I allowed him to hit me because he told me that I deserved it. I was forced to have sexual intercourse with him after having a c-section birth to prove my devotion to him. While nursing our second child, he grabbed the baby away from me and picked me up by pinching my nipples and slamming me into the bedroom closet. I was forbidden by him to nurse the baby after that. Following several months of ridicule and accusations, I became pregnant with our third child. He threatened to kill me after I gave birth to her, claiming that I was messing around on him. He would never consent to a blood test but did consent to being the father in paternity court for all three of our children.

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

After six-and-a-half years of the on-and-off relationship with my children’s father, I began to realise that it didn’t have to be this way. I reminded myself of a time I was six years old and hiding under a bed with my mom because my dad was looking for her with a machete knife to kill her. I didn’t want to end up hiding with my children to save our lives. When I finally fought back to free myself from his grasp around my neck, I told myself I would never go back to this relationship, even when he threatened me and stalked me. Afterwards, I stood my ground and believed in myself once again. I finally ran, left it behind me. I never wanted the abuse to exist in the lives of my three children and myself.

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

I cried for days on end, wondering if I made the right decision. One early morning while crying out to the Creator, I heard a hawk outside of the house. It flew over me, screeching, making its presence known and it was then I found strength and courage within myself. I leaned on my mom and my auntie for guidance. They encouraged me to build my life up and do what I always wanted to do: get a job to raise my children, contact friends and become sociable again, get active with people my age, get interested in our culture and traditions, and gain self confidence to live life as a single parent. They offered counseling sessions as we traveled to our sacred mountains, assisted with daily chores so that I wouldn’t get overwhelmed, and gave me unconditional support and love. And when I hear a screeching hawk, I am reminded of a spiritual strength that entered my soul at a time I was doubtful of my life.

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

Never give up on yourself. Never doubt your ability to live on your terms. Give yourself the love and respect you deserve, even when he tells you that you don’t deserve to be loved or to be respected. Confide in your most trusted woman friend, your mom, your auntie, or sister – one who will be your strength and comfort. Have a plan of escape, but don’t share it with others. Be affectionate with your children, love their fears away, let them know they will be safe with you despite the hell you are experiencing. Follow through with restraining orders, court orders, and other legal matters relating with the domestic violence issue. Get help! Now there are programmes available for victims of domestic violence. Back then, there were none or, if there were, I did not get familiar with them.

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

We can end violence against women by gaining knowledge through professions who have contact with victims at any given time. Provide support to all victims. Educate the public. Offer Perpetrator Re-Education classes. Inform the youth of domestic violence so they don’t become perpetrators or victims once they become involved in a relationship.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project due to the past silence of domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women amongst many different cultures, countries, and communities. To promote and support such an organisation means to promote healing of women suffering from the hands of an abusive partner, family member or cultural practice. Around the world, victims suffer from emotional, physical, and psychological abuse, and this sometimes ends in a tragic death. Victims of domestic violence need to be aware that there are sincere human beings who offer services and are available to assist in rebuilding and strengthening the lives of those who once experienced traumatic lifestyles at the hands of a perpetrator. No more silence; communication is the key in many languages with one heart.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT: Lisa Rojek Leiplein, 33, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present the Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2014. The project runs throughout the month of May 2014 and features an interview per day with a survivor of any form of violence against women (VAW) including domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation, forced/child marriage, sex trafficking, breast ironing etc. A total of 31 VAW survivor stories will be featured. This project was created to provide:

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

This project is also part of a programme of initiatives held throughout 2014 in support of the Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign that is in benefit of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and The Pixel Project. Donate at just US$1 per pixel to reveal the mystery Celebrity Male Role Models and help raise US$1 million for the cause while raising awareness about the important role men and boys play in ending violence against women in their communities worldwide. Donations begin at just US$10 and you can donate via the Pixel Reveal website here or the Pixel Reveal Razoo donation page here.

Our seventeenth Survivor Stories interview is with Lisa Rojek Leiplein from the U.S.A.

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The Survivor Bio:

I am a survivor of domestic violence, sexual assault, and rape living the wonderfully safe, ordinary life I never thought possible. I am a wife, mother, employee, daughter, friend, ministry leader, writer, reader, and music lover. I am passionate about educating others about the realities of gender-based violence and encouraging fellow survivors that it is possible to find hope and healing. I want survivors to know that their past does not define them and that they matter and their stories matter, no matter what.

Lisa Leplein1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

In my early 20s, I met a man who seemed sweet and charming. Before long he began to separate me from my essential supports: my parents, best friend, and church. It happened so subtly that I didn’t realise it until after the fact. When I voiced my discomfort, he was quick to make me doubt myself. It took me a long time to realise I was in a truly abusive relationship because he never hit me. He was controlling, manipulative, crazy-making, and verbally, emotionally, and sexually abusive, but because my idea of abuse was only physical violence, it took me too long to see what was happening. My first sexual experience was him raping me. I never knew there was such a thing as relationship rape before that. I submitted to his demands because I was afraid of what he would do to me or my family.

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

I am fortunate to have supportive parents and friends who never stopped fighting for me. One night, I called my parents and told them how bad things were. They met me with understanding, love, and support. The next morning when he left for work, I packed a getaway bag and went to my parents’ house. They protected me when he came over to try to manipulate and bully me into coming back. My mother had to physically restrain me from leaving with him. The next weekend, my parents and some friends helped me move my things out of the apartment I had shared with him.

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

My healing journey has been long and winding. When I first left my abuser, I called a local non-profit that provides services to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. I attended their introductory sessions and a domestic violence support group. The book It’s My Life Now was very helpful. About two years later, I re-entered counselling to process the sexual assault. A few years after that, I began seeing a new counsellor through my church who helped me more actively pursue healing. The work I had done in the past laid a good foundation, but several years after the relationship ended, I was ready to dig deep and face the effects the abuse still had on my life. Reconnecting with my faith gave me renewed hope and focus.

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

Trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t talk yourself out of it. Make a plan and get to a safe place. If you don’t have family, friends, or co-workers you can trust, find your local domestic violence and sexual assault services center. I know it’s frightening to face the unknown, but you truly can have a safe, fulfilling life outside of your abusive situation. That first step towards safety can be scary, but it’s the best thing you will ever do for yourself. The violence you experienced will always be part of your story, but it will not always define you.

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

We need to break the silence, shame, and stigma surrounding violence against women. We need to keep speaking up, telling the truth, and demanding that attention be paid to these issues. We need both women and men to stand up for what is right and make the wholesale cultural attitude change that is needed to end violence against women a reality. We need safe places for women to share their stories and know they will be believed. Even one person speaking up and sharing her story makes a difference.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support the Pixel Project because they do vital work to raise awareness about violence against women in creative, tangible ways. Gender-based violence thrives in secrecy and shame, and The Pixel Project helps break down those walls through their online activism. They show that anyone can make a difference and provide ways for people to start conversations and get involved.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT: Sakura Yodogawa-Campbell, 40, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present the Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2014. The project runs throughout the month of May 2014 and features an interview per day with a survivor of any form of violence against women (VAW) including domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation, forced/child marriage, sex trafficking, breast ironing etc. A total of 31 VAW survivor stories will be featured. This project was created to provide:

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

This project is also part of a programme of initiatives held throughout 2014 in support of the Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign that is in benefit of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and The Pixel Project. Donate at just US$1 per pixel to reveal the mystery Celebrity Male Role Models and help raise US$1 million for the cause while raising awareness about the important role men and boys play in ending violence against women in their communities worldwide. Donations begin at just US$10 and you can donate via the Pixel Reveal website here or the Pixel Reveal Razoo donation page here.

Our twelfth Survivor Stories interview is with Sakura Yodogawa-Campbell from the U.S.A.

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The Survivor Bio:

Sakura Yodogawa-Campbell has been working to end violence against women for over 20 years. She is the Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Programme Manager for the Women’s Center for Advancement in Omaha, Nebraska and oversees the programming and staffing of the three-agency 24-hour crisis lines. She has an extensive trauma history including rape, domestic abuse, child sexual abuse and sex trafficking. As a former cutter and now coping with PTSD and Anxiety, Sakura works with survivors of trauma in finding positive ways to cope and speaking about the trauma.

She is currently pursuing a degree in Women’s and Gender Studies as well as her certification for Intentional Peer Support work. She is on the Nebraska Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing’s Mental Health Advisory Committee and is a member of the Nebraska Coalition for Victims of Crime. Sakura received recent recognition for outstanding advocacy service as the Keynote Speaker for the 4th Judicial District in Iowa’s Crime Victims Rights Week luncheon. She was also a Hometown Hero Nominee from the FBI Citizens Academy Alumni Association in 2013 and a Purple Ribbon Award from the Domestic Violence Council in 2008. 

Sakura Yodogawa-Campbell1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

My personal experience is quite extensive. I was first sexually abused around age 6 or 7 and then from there I was first raped at age 11 and began cutting myself. I hated myself and my body and that transferred over to abusive relationships in high school and college. I was raped once in high school and the first weekend in college. As a result, I turned to drugs and alcohol to escape. I can honestly say during those years I was raped no less than 100 times. From 2000-2002 I was in my most physical and sexual violent relationship where the sex trafficking occurred, as well as strangulation.

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

It was music, the support of friends and family and finally, and the will to survive that got me out of what I call “the fog”. It took a final act of strangulation for me to wake up and realise that I wasn’t ready to die. My mom was able to help me and I haven’t looked back since.

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

Most importantly, I learned to love me. As I tell everyone I have been advocating for women over 20 years but for myself about 8. It really did take me being comfortable with my body and who I am to open up to a healthy relationship, which I have with my partner of 6 years. I also work as an Advocate for victims of violence against women so every day, I am doing for others what was done for me. My experience has given me the energy to survive, thrive and fight. Every day is a new day and I have worked hard to focus on the forward and live in the now versus letting my past lead. I still have PTSD and anxiety issues as a result but I cope with those and am not ashamed of it.

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

First we have to stop blaming ourselves. We have to start loving ourselves. We have to continue to reach out to others and not be ashamed or afraid to tell our stories. Once we OWN it (our experience) it no longer defines us or limits us. By speaking out, we are taking the power on and the person or persons who did this, no longer have that assumed power. There is power in numbers and there are more of us than there are of them (perpetrator’s).

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

We can end violence against women by being educated. Know that it is real and around us everywhere. We need to educate our children and communities. Prevention is KEY. As survivors, we  need to speak out. Remaining silent and hiding it only keeps it alive. If we speak out, we take that power from those who did the crime. The more we speak out, the more people will have to listen.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

The Pixel Project’s Survivor Story Blog Interview Project is an amazing way to reach people and have survivor’s voices heard because The Pixel Project uses social media and all things techie in the 21st Century to wake people up to what is really happening! I am grateful for this opportunity!

THE SURVIVORS STORIES PROJECT: Tracy Grinstead-Everly, 44, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present the Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2014. The project runs throughout the month of May 2014 and features an interview per day with a survivor of any form of violence against women (VAW) including domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation, forced/child marriage, sex trafficking, breast ironing etc. A total of 31 VAW survivor stories will be featured. This project was created to provide:

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

This project is also part of a programme of initiatives held throughout 2014 in support of the Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign that is in benefit of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and The Pixel Project. Donate at just US$1 per pixel to reveal the mystery Celebrity Male Role Models and help raise US$1 million for the cause while raising awareness about the important role men and boys play in ending violence against women in their communities worldwide. Donations begin at just US$10 and you can donate via the Pixel Reveal website here or the Pixel Reveal Razoo donation page here.

Our eleventh Survivor Stories interview is with Tracy Grinstead-Everly from the U.S.A.

TRIGGER WARNING: The first 2 segments of this interview may be triggering for some survivors of rape.

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The Survivor Bio:

Tracy Grinstead-Everly is a survivor of teen dating violence, which included physical assault, sexual assault, and stalking.  She has worked to end violence against women for over 23 years, starting as a community activist and hotline advocate.  She received her law degree in 1995 and spent years representing victims of family violence to help them achieve safety and self-sufficiency.  She currently works as a public policy manager, developing and training on laws which maximise victim safety and offender accountability.  She has published several articles and developed best practices on family violence, with particular focuses on protective orders and firearms.

Tracy Grinstead-Everly.Pixel Project.Photo 11. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence (this may include domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation etc)?

Before I began dating, I had no concept of healthy relationships.   I was raised to think that any man was better than no man at all.  I entered by first serious relationship as a senior in high school.  My boyfriend almost immediately became jealous of any time I spent with anyone other than him.  To avoid conflict, I soon became isolated from my friends.   The relationship progressed to emotional abuse, but I was convinced that I was lucky to have him.   On the night of a major high school event he raped me.  I did not know what to expect, so I did not know the emotional and physical pain I felt was not normal.  I did not know to use that word.  The subsequent times we had sex were often against my will.  I ended up with frequent bruises on my hips and a torn labia.  My blood and tears were always met with apologies.   He told me he couldn’t help himself.  He told me I was beautiful.  He told me that he loved me.  I believed him.

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

As my high school graduation approached, I contemplated the idea that I would be away from him.  At first the very thought frightened me, but I began to think about how the distance would affect me.  I decided that a woman who could negotiate her own scholarship to college, who decided to be brave enough to go where she knew no one, could maybe live on her own.  I broke off the relationship.  The abuse became physical and in public.  My friends who did not believe me about the abuse saw it with their own eyes.  My attempt to seek a protection order failed.  I left for college, and he stalked me my entire freshman year.  I refused to take his phone calls, slept somewhere else when he came to find me.  I learned that I was resourceful and strong.   I lived without him, and was the better for it.

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

After I finally escaped my abusive ex-boyfriend, I obtained counselling.  As my therapy progressed, I said the words out loud.  I had been raped.  I had been beaten.  I had been stalked.  I sought a higher power.  I had been taught that God punishes the wicked and makes bad things happen to bad people.   I could not figure out what I had done that was so bad as to have deserved what I had survived.  I spoke with religious leaders of all faiths, attended various houses of worship, read and studied and tried to find an answer.  One evening I drove 30 miles to attend services at a Reform Jewish Temple.  The rabbi’s sermon was essentially this:  “This week’s Torah portion is the Ten Commandments.  What can I say that has not already been said?   Of all of the Commandments, I say there are three that above all else we must follow:   Take no other Gods before me.  Do not murder. And do not rape.  These are things that can never be taken back, that break the very soul.”  As I said “Amen,” I knew that I had found my place in the world, and have practiced Judaism ever since.

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

Believe in yourself.  Even if what you think in your heart defies everything you have been taught, trust yourself.  Do not give in to negative messages you receive from family, friends, society and those who claim they love you but hurt you nonetheless.  Once you think about leaving, know that there is hope.  There are people who want to help you, you just haven’t met them yet.  If you return to your abuser, do not feel guilty or like you failed.  You know your situation better than anyone else.  Do what you need to do to stay safe and know that you can always reach out again. Know that you deserve to be happy and healthy and safe.  Once you finally escape – and I know you can – seek out others.  Trust that you are not alone.  We believe you and we believe in you.  Others have made it and so can you.  You are stronger than you know.

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

Our best hope for the future is to acknowledge and learn from not only the past, but the present.  If we do not recognise and name the problem, it will continue to grow, silently and fatally.  Our society protects institutional violence against women.  We need to demand that victims be supported in their efforts to be safe and that offenders be held accountable.  Our culture must be revamped, through a change of attitudes and beliefs of society and individuals.  Yet, it is not enough to blame the system without offering ideas of change.  We must look to our society’s leaders– from parents to politicians – to demonstrate zero tolerance of how women are mistreated and to serve as role models through their public and private actions.  People must be taught that respecting women is an outward reflection of respecting themselves.  It is never too early or too late to learn and change.   Public awareness and cultural conviction to end violence against women must be instilled at all ages and aspects of society.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

It is critical to give a name and voice to individual survivors of domestic violence, rape and other crimes against women.   The staggering numbers of victims can be overwhelming or seem exaggerated, and be too easily dismissed.  I support The Pixel Project because they run projects and initiatives like the Survivor Story Blog Interview Project that shows that every statistic is built on a real woman with a unique story.  I think it is long overdue for victims of these crimes to be given a forum in which to share their experiences.   It is more than educational, it is empowering.