Posts tagged Sexual Assault

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2016: Candace Martin, 25, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our third annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2016. The annual campaign runs throughout the month of May 2016 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 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 sixth 2016 Survivor Stories interview is with Candace Martin 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:

Candace Martin is a Programme Coordinator in Spokane, Washington. In her spare time, she volunteers with ACTION OHIO Coalition for Battered Women. Previously, she has planned events and taught 4th grade on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico. She has degrees in English, Psychology, and Women and Gender Studies. She twice served as president of Alpha Chi Omega, whose philanthropy is Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention, during her undergraduate career. She also worked with a Women’s Centre and interned at a Rape Crisis Center. She is a survivor of domestic violence. 

Candace Martin1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

As a child, my home life was very unstable. My father was emotionally and physically abusive toward my mother, brothers, and myself.

As the eldest child and the only female, I got the brunt of the abuse. He would physically abuse me by hitting me, kicking me, choking me, and whipping me with a belt. He would emotionally abuse me by telling me that I was worthless, ugly, and unlikable. Messages that I heard growing up included, “men will only ever want you for one thing,” “you will never have any real friends,” and “anything that happens in this house stays in this house.”

 

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

My father had been reported to Children’s Services 3 separate times during my childhood. Each time, my father would coach my family to lie about what was happening. Once, I told the truth. As I was the only one who said what was happening, nothing changed.

When I was 17, after a particularly terrible beating, my boyfriend at the time reported the abuse to his school counsellor who contacted mine. Visibly, I had a black eye and bruises up and down my arms. Once again, I told the truth about what was happening. My mother and younger brothers were called in, and eventually my mother, who had been abused for nearly 20 years, admitted to what had been happening. We both got restraining orders against my father. I haven’t spoken to him since.

 

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

There was some court mandated family counselling which helped me work through my feelings. It also helped us to heal and become closer as a family.

On my own, I went for counselling at my college and at a local domestic violence centre. I also learned as much as I could about domestic violence to understand what had happened. I immersed myself in my sorority, whose philanthropy is domestic violence awareness and prevention; I read brochures and pamphlets on these issues; I also took classes on the subject.

Eventually, I felt as though I was at a place where I could understand what had happened to me and was at peace with it. I translated my feelings into passion to help others who are in situations similar to my own.

 

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

You are not alone. There is help out there. I know you’re likely very scared, but there is a way out of this situation. Until it’s safe to get out of your situation, know that you are worthy and loved. You are enough. You deserve love and happiness.

Maya Angelou said, “Nothing can dim the light that shines from within.” You will survive and thrive. When you feel ready, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Counselling was something that changed my life and perspective in a very major way. I would recommend reaching out to your local domestic violence centre who will likely be able to help you at little or no cost to you.

 

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

I think we need to talk about the issue. domestic violence is something that people are largely uncomfortable discussing. They’d like to pretend it isn’t happening or that they don’t know anyone affected by it. In reality, we all know someone who has been impacted by violence against women.

We need to raise awareness of how prevalent it is and make sure that our society as a whole works toward stopping it. Bystander intervention training is vital. Many people think it’s “not their business” but oftentimes the violence only stops if someone steps in.

Finally, we need to teach everyone about what healthy relationships look like. Many don’t realise that their relationship is problematic until it’s quite progressed.

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

We live in a very internet-driven world, and The Pixel Project works across many different areas to raise awareness, funds, and volunteer power to end domestic violence and other forms of violence against women.

More people than ever have access to social media, and raising awareness of violence against women on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram can mean the difference between life and death for a woman experiencing violence. I firmly believe that raising awareness is one of the main ways to end violence against women, and The Pixel Project works to do that and much more every day.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2016: Panayiota Bertzikis, 34, USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our third annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2016. The annual campaign runs throughout the month of May 2016 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 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 fifth 2016 Survivor Stories interview is with Panayiota Bertzikis from the USA.

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:

Panayiota Bertzikis is a survivor of a brutal rape while serving on active duty in the United States Coast Guard. She founded the Military Rape Crisis Centre in August 2006 while still on Active Duty as a direct response for the lack of support after her rape. It has since grown to be the largest organisation offering direct services to survivors of military sexual trauma.  Military Rape Crisis Centre has representatives in almost every state and at U.S military bases overseas and it serves survivors, their family and friends, and professionals. The free and confidential services provided include: medical advocacy, support groups, legal services, case management, community education and professional training. When she is not working to help survivors, Panayiota’s hobbies include yoga, travelling, reading, and spending time with her newborn son and her husband.

Panayiota Bertzikis1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I was brutally raped by a shipmate while serving in the United States Coast Guard in Burlington, Vermont. I reported the rape to my command and instead of getting me the much needed medical treatment they chose to lock me up in a closet while they “investigated” my allegations.

Immediately after the “investigation” I was forced to clean out an attic on base as a “team building exercise” with my rapist. I suffered through 11 months of very severe retaliations, including an attempted sexual assault by friends of my rapists.

I eventually lost my career in the Coast Guard due to being “unable to adjust to being raped”. Despite physical injuries and a confession, my rapist left the service with an Honourable Discharge.

 

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

Being in the military, my options were limited; leaving my job would have resulted in my having gone AWOL and risking being sent to prison. Suicide was another option. Instead, I got up each day and reported for duty, knowing full well that I would experience acts of retaliation, victim-blaming, and slut-shaming.

During sexual assault prevention training the Coast Guard boasted about having a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy. At the time I was unaware of the extent of the rape epidemic in the military and held on to (what I now know to be) the false belief that someone within my chain would see what was going on and put an end to the retaliations; that they would live up to their promise that the Coast Guard has zero-tolerance.

Instead, things got considerably worse each and every day. Almost a year after my rape I lost my career because I was told that I “had problems adjusting to being raped”.

 

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

While on Active Duty I formed the Military Rape Crisis Centre. After hearing stories from other survivors, I realised that what happened to me was not an isolated incident and that the military has a systematic problem with sexual abuse and how they respond to it. I have since worked with members of the U.S Congress to implement new policies to help other survivors.

Working as an advocate and an activist has helped me so much. Seeing the changes that I was a part of in helping create allowed me to regain my strength and power that my rapist has tried to take away from me. Hearing survivors tell me that I inspired them to find their voice to share their story humbles me.

The military, especially the Coast Guard, still has a long way to go before their response to rape is even acceptable. However, it is no longer a dark secret, in part because of my advocacy work. I hope that no survivor would ever think that how their command responds to their rape is their fault.

 

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

Take time to heal. Practice self-care each and every day. For me it is yoga and spending time with my family. No matter how busy my schedule is I always find time to do my yoga practice.

And don’t listen to the negative comments! People are going to blame you, not believe you, or tell you that you deserve it or you were somehow ‘asking for it’. They are wrong! Surround yourself with folks who believe you and validate you.

 

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

Educating our youth, especially our boys, is vital in eliminating violence against women. By the time one is of age to enlist in the military or attend college it is too late. Teaching age-appropriate consent and respect starts from an early age—even before a child is old enough to go to school.

As a mother of a son, I would do everything in my power to teach him to respect others and to teach him about consent. I do not want my son to be the reason why a rape was swept under the rug, a survivor was retaliated against, or why a rape occurred. If we as parents all educate our kids, I truly believe we can dramatically reduce the rates of violence against women within one generation.

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

Violence against women affects everyone. We all know someone that been affected by rape, sexual abuse, sex trafficking, domestic violence, and other forms of gender-based violence. The Pixel Project is doing wonderful work to bring awareness on this issue with hopes that one day women around the world can live a life free of violence.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2016: Lindsay Lucas-Bartlett, 32, UK and USA

The Pixel Project is proud to present our third annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2016. The annual campaign runs throughout the month of May 2016 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 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 fourth 2016 Survivor Stories interview, in partnership with When You Are Ready, is with Lindsay Lucas-Bartlett from the UK and USA.

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:

Lindsay is a British actress currently living in Los Angeles. It was during her time at drama school in London back in 2007 when Lindsay was date raped. After six years of therapy, and travelling the globe to get away from London, Lindsay settled in LA where she has been for the past six years. Now happily married with a furry baby of a dog, Lindsay has started her next journey into helping others. Lindsay joined forces this year with VDAY to help bring awareness of sexual and physical violence across the globe that is inflicted on women everyday. 

 

Lindsay Lucas Bartlett_cropped1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I was date raped when I was twenty-three whilst I was halfway through my Masters’ Degree at drama school in London, my dream school. I was with a so-called friend and she just left me there after the incident. There were two guys and this girl I looked up to. I have no memory of the attack, all I know is that I couldn’t pee properly for over a week and a half or sit down without having shooting pains for over two months after the attack, and that I had deep scratches that took over a month to heal. I had two deep scratches on either side of my hip area and one long scratch on the back of my neck.

I tried denying anything had happened, until I went to the hospital a day later and the staff confirmed that whatever had happened to me was not consensual and the women at The Haven told me I should report it to the police, which I did the following morning.

 

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

It was a very bizarre time for me. I had my “friend” tell me nothing had happened, yet my body and my inner intuition were screaming otherwise. The hospital was telling me otherwise also. The police investigated the assault and dropped the case after a month. They had arrested the guy  – which my friend was beside herself about (what a huge embarrassment for her!) but they did not have enough evidence, only my statement, to continue the case.

I made it my goal to finish my Masters’ Degree as I could not just quit after all the hard work I had already put into it. A friend of mine from class suggested we move to Los Angeles after we completed the course to get out of London and so I made that my next goal. I kept making goals for myself and I made sure that I completed as many as I set (some I am even still trying to achieve).

 

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

I talked a lot about it, and I mean a lot. It took me a few weeks to tell some of my closet friends as I felt all this shame and guilt, but when I knew that I had all of my friends support, I knew I was safe to talk it out as much as I could. That has actually been a tremendous part of my healing.

After my student visa expired in the States I started my work visa process (a new goal I worked towards). I also moved to Australia for about four months as I did not feel ready to head back to London. This helped my healing process as I realised how big this world is and how I had the strength to do everything I was doing and had previously done with my U.S travels. That’s when I decided to head back home to London to be with my friends whilst I was waiting for my U.S visa to be approved. It turned out that I had the most wonderful time back in London being with my friends and family. I actually met another survivor and we became instant friends and are still to this day.

I also put a lot into my craft as well – acting, performing and painting were very strong outlets for me and they have truly helped me thrive.

 

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

Just know you are not alone and you never will be. Talk about it. Talk about it as much as you can and get it out of your system. When you feel you have spoken about it as much as you can, talk about it more. I saw different therapists (due to my travelling) for over six years. Until one day I started talking about something that was not my rape and I realised that what I was talking about was so silly (I think it was about how I chipped a nail on my way to the appointment or something stupid along those lines). Then something happened inside of me, I realised I was thinking about other things other than my assault. It had taken me that long.

The more you talk about it with others though, the more you connect, the more you’ll find that it has happened to more people than you think. Not only can you help yourself but you can also help others.  You can connect with others and know that you are not alone, even when you feel it. Trust me, I felt so isolated and alone. Especially after the police at Notting Hill Station had told me it was consensual and I was at fault, when I was walking through Hyde Park feeling so disgusted with myself, and I felt so alone, but I truly was not. It is happening all the time to women and it needs to stop.

 

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

We need to create an environment where women are not blamed and shamed for reporting their assaults, whether it is physical or sexual. I feel that women have a heavy weight to carry, as there is this sense of shame and guilt that we carry around with us as if “we asked for it”. That has to stop. Women and men have to stop “slut shaming” women and instead stand together and support each other.

A friend recently told me that she had been sexually assaulted and when she spoke to one of her relatives, they denied her a voice and said that she must be lying. As this story unfolded it turned out that this relative had been assaulted by the same man in question. Instead of supporting her young relative she denied her as she had possibly had felt denied in the past.  People are so quick to judge and slap labels on each other. The victim blaming and shaming needs to stop. The victim is never at fault, no one asks for that to happen to them, it is a truly disgusting, violent act and people need to know that it is on the rise, especially in this egotistical, social-media fuelled world that is unfolding in front of us, and it needs to stop.

Bring awareness to the masses. People need to be educated on these events as they are real and they are happening and when you think it is never going to happen to you or anyone you know, sure enough it happens.

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because their Survivor Stories campaign provides a platform for women to tell their survivor stories and get heard. It is one of the most valuable things people need, to be heard and be validated. Each story is different but they all have the same pattern, and we all go through very similar cycles of guilt, shame, depression, suicidal thoughts, being scared and feeling alone. I stand with The Pixel Project as I want to put an end to violence against women, we need to empower each other and not bring each other down. Empower, empower, empower!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Survivor Bio:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

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

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: Rhonda Myers, 31, 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 nineteenth 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Rhonda Myers from USA.

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

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The Survivor Bio:

My name is Rhonda. I am 31 years old and a survivor of domestic violence. I was a victim at the hands of my biological father, both mentally and physically. Since then I have rebuilt myself, acknowledged the issues it caused me, and worked to fix them. I have grown. I am now working full-time in a hospital and I also go to school full-time, working on my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Child Learning and Development. I plan on attending Grad School in the near future to get my Master’s in Clinical Psychology and obtaining my license to be a counsellor.

Rhonda Myers1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

My biological dad was a very violent man. He was both physically and mentally abusive to my mother and I. I cannot recall how many times I sat in the back of police cars and in hospital rooms with her because of his violence. I witnessed and was made to do things that I cannot even describe, both violent and sexual, because they are much too graphic.

I developed a fear of speaking due to witnessing time and time again his physical abuse on my mother for simply saying anything at all. I was terrified he would do the same to me and he described, in detail, what he would to me and how he would kill my mother and make me watch, if I did not behave in ways that he seemed fit, which was silence.

Growing up and going to school, I was terrified to speak, even after we got away from him. My mom used to have to write letters to my teachers explaining why I would not speak and I was scared of anyone I did not know.

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

With the help of family, and finally a court order, my mother and I were free from him. We lived with family for a while, during the time that my mom was building a new life for us. I recall the countless times he tried to take me away and I remember hiding from him when he would show up unexpectedly. As my mom grew stronger, she was less scared to take action against him and he finally realised she was not afraid of him anymore and would continue to fight against him, for her life and mine.

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

Healing and rebuilding took time and patience. As I watched my mother become stronger, I knew I could too. Speaking anywhere besides at home took time for me. It was very hard and sometimes it still is when I meet someone new, especially a male.

For a long time I thought all males were violent and it took time to understand they were not. Some days were easier than others at the beginning, but we pushed on. The stronger my mother got, the stronger I became. Family love and support helped us when we became discouraged. We have a bond now that is unlike any other and that bond is unbreakable. The trials helped us become closer and we know that we will always be there for each other.

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

Understand it takes time and patience to get out of and/or fix the situation. It CAN be done. These things are not your fault, even though you may truly believe they are. There is so much support out there for you, you just have to let someone know. Talking about it is the first step and I know it is completely terrifying but you deserve to live a happy and safe life. We all do. I never thought I would be in a position to be able (or even live) to share my story and hope it encourages others to seek help, but I am here. And you can be here too.

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

Raising awareness is what we need to continue to do. Speaking out, sharing our stories, and spreading the word can have a great impact. Education is highly important as well, and it needs to start young. Educate both boys and girls about violence, and equal and human rights. Social media can be great to spread the word. Speak up against violence of women, sexism, and stop demeaning the feminine. Volunteer and/or donate to legitimate charities and organisations that advocate for women.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I discoveredThe Pixel Project through the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV). As I read through their previous campaigns and projects, I felt incredibly moved by their efforts to end violence against women. They raise awareness in unique ways and encourage education and this is something I strongly agree with. As a survivor, I feel it is important to discuss, share, and encourage so that others in the same situations see the light we are shining at the end of the tunnel, and I feel that The Pixel Project is doing just that.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: Michelle Jones, 25, 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 fifteenth 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Michelle Jones from the USA.

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:

Michelle B. Jones is a writer and advocate for survivors of sexual assault. She uses her blog, refuge2224.blogspot.com, to document her journey of four years. She also uses it as an outlet for other survivors to share their stories anonymously for their voices to be heard, without the backlash of victim blaming. She is also active with public speaking to stop violence against women.  She loves spending her down time with her rescue corgi mix, Mia. They go to the dog park, go shopping at Petco, or just play on the farm! She also loves spending time with her family members. Call of duty with her nephew, yoga with her niece, nonstop laughter with her sister and quality talks with her mother are a few of her favorite things.  You can find her on Facebook, Twitter (Shelly_Bean89) and Instagram (Michellebrooke89). 

IMG_77801. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I was raped/sexually assaulted while I was unconscious. I had been talking to the man who did this to me a few months prior to the attack, and had told him that for us to work we would have to take things slow. So, he took matters into his own hands, and took advantage of a situation – while I was passed out from drinking too much he sexually assaulted me.

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

When I came too, I had this man on top of me, violating me. I was frozen and couldn’t move. I was in shock. Someone I thought I could trust was doing the unthinkable to me and I was terrified. At that moment, I knew that everything I thought I knew of this man was a lie and I had no idea what kind of person he was.

Every scenario flashed through my head, I didn’t know what he would do if I put up a fight and he was twice my size. So I thought, “Maybe if he realises that I am coming too, he will stop.” And that is exactly what he did.

He stumbled off me, and pretended to just be cuddling me. He was not expecting me to come too while he was doing this to me. I played dumb and sick, until he finally offered to take me home. After that I texted him and told him that I knew what he had done, and to stay away from me. He openly admitted to it, and apologised.

Word spread and story after story came up of him doing this and much worse to other girls. So I pressed charges. After that, his frat brothers messed with my car, messed with my apartment, and ran me out of town. I moved to a town where I didn’t know another person and continued to spiral out of control.

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

After I moved I started drinking every day and refused any help. The court hearings lasted about a year. I took the stand numerous times, where I was made to feel like a whore, like I had asked for it. I was defending myself when I was not the one on trial. Our government spends so much time with the “innocent until proven guilty” thing that they make the victim feel like the guilty one for speaking up. This worsened my depression.

I gained a lot of weight and really didn’t care if I woke up each morning. It took my mother breaking down to me and telling me that her daughter’s rapist had taken her smile away, had taken her daughter away. I knew then that I couldn’t keep doing this to myself and my loved ones. I was slowly killing myself.

So, I started off with baby steps. I read books and listened to music that helped me cope. Then I finally got into counselling. I started blogging about my journey. Every feeling I had and every situation I went through, and without realising it at the time, I had started to inspire others. Other survivors came to me with their stories, in search of their own voices. So I gave them an outlet for one. They wrote out their stories and any feelings they had, in their own words anonymously. They had no one to victim blame them and had a chance to be comfortable.

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

I would tell them to express what they are feeling. Find a comfortable way, whether it is counselling, through art, writing, or just talking about it with loved ones. I truly believe that getting back your voice after trauma is a huge step in the healing process, it’s what saved me.

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

Acknowledging that it is happening. Instead of pointing at it and saying “this is what it is and this is what it is doing” our society takes the easy route, and that mostly consists of blaming the victim. Women throughout history have fought countless times to have the same freedom as men do. But once someone takes the one thing that we have fought so hard to get – our voices – the damage that does can be catastrophic. Our laws and our society as a whole should be helping women when they feel lost, not kicking them when they are down.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because you all are striving to raise awareness for women who struggle more than most people will ever realise.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: JoAnn Buttaro, 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 twelfth 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with JoAnn Buttaro from the U.S.A.

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The Survivor Bio:

JoAnn Buttaro, founder of JoAnnSpeaksOut, is a speaker, advocate and activist for Date Rape prevention and awareness. Her blog under the same title incorporates her personal experience in a way that can help other victims heal.  JoAnn has been the subject of national true crime television programmes, told her story on radio podcast’s and is project adviser for Tell The World, a song for survivors speaking out about their sexual assault. In her spare time she volunteers as a Wish Grantor for the Make-A-Wish organisation. In 2013 she moved from New Jersey to Los Angeles for love and lives there with her boyfriend Steve.

Joann4 Rev (533x800)1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I was drugged and raped by a man I met on Match.com on our one and only date. Unbeknownst to me I was lured in by this serial date rapist who preyed upon his victims mostly through the dating website. He fabricated all the details of his life, was charming and gained my trust.

After talking over drinks for several hours that night he invited me back to his apartment and it was there he drugged my drink. I woke up about 8 hours later naked in his bed with no memory of consenting to having sex with him and feeling sick all over my body.

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

My attacker pretended the next morning that our sex was consensual so there was no reason to escape. I simply left his apartment full of shame and embarrassment. We never went out again.

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

My healing process began with telling my story to a Philadelphia SVU detective along with the support I received by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office. They stood by me throughout the trial process. I also received rape crisis counselling from WOAR (Women Organised Against Rape) located I Philadelphia. My family and friends were also there for me along the way. All these factors contributed to me healing and rebuilding my life.

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

Start by telling someone you trust and if there is no one in that position or that makes you feel uncomfortable then contact the local rape crisis center, RAINN or the Joyful Heart Foundation. It’s a long a difficult road to healing but if you stay with it you will succeed and be happy again.

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

We need to talk about it and encourage victims and survivors to talk about it. I have found that when I tell my story even to strangers that they have opened up to me about their experience with sexual violence.

It’s also very important to stress there is no shame in what happened to them and remind them it wasn’t their fault.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I like The Pixel Project’s single focused mission and message to end Violence Against Women using creative ways of engaging everyone no matter what group you are a part of be that women, men and boys in cities and countries all over the world. They have a variety of campaigns available for people to choose what’s best suited for their level of involvement. I supported this organisation as soon as I became aware of them.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT 2015: Elizabeth Halpin, 26, 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 eleventh 2015 Survivor Stories interview, in partnership with When You Are Ready,  is with Elizabeth Halpin from Canada.

Trigger Warning: The first Q&A may be a distressing for some rape and sexual assault survivors. 

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The Survivor Bio:

Elizabeth Halpin is a survivor of sexual violence following an attack by an acquaintance in 2012. She has been a blogger at the When You’re Ready Project since February 2015 and has big plans for its’ future. She enjoys snowboarding, travelling, and spending time with friends and family. Her next trip is to Peru in May 2015, she is looking forward to some hiking and relaxing. Monday to Friday you can catch her managing children’s programs at several community centers, and then off to kickboxing class in the evenings! 

Elizabeth Haplin_Survivor Stories

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

I was attacked by an acquaintance. We met at a bar, and my friends pushed me to go home with him. I was not so sure so I suggested we all go for pizza before going home. Before I knew it my friends had left with my jacket and keys. I was kind of out of options so I went back to his place, hopefully just to charge my phone and then find my friends again. He had other plans. He threw me against a mirror, hit, choked, and slapped me. I kept trying to scramble away and he kept pulling me back over and over again for eight hours.

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

I had to play along and stop fighting back – it got worse the harder I fought. When he finally stopped and calmed down, I honestly prayed that he would just fall asleep so I could leave. I just waited until he fell asleep, grabbed my clothes, and snuck out. I did not sleep again for four nights, and then when I did it was because of heavy-duty sedatives.

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

I had so much therapy. One-to-one sessions, three times weekly for a while, then down to weekly, then bi-weekly. I did two rounds of group therapy at the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton, and then got to stay on for some one-to-one with one of the facilitators. This process lasted for almost two years. I still go to therapy on a maintenance basis – every two months or so.

I did a lot of yoga, it was about all of the exercise I could handle without panicking. Even then, sometimes I still panicked. Keeping busy and distracting myself was good, but I needed to take a lot of downtime. It was hard to find energy because I was in this hyper alert state for months and months. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is exhausting. Once the panic attacks died down, I was able to start getting back to the gym – weights, boot camps, and kickboxing. I have a couple guy friends who were really there for me in a way that I cannot quite explain. They were so kind and gentle, and I actually felt safe around them. They cared about me in a way that was not threatening.

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

It does not matter what you have to do to survive, just do it. No one has the right to judge you for the decisions you make before, during, or after this situation, and you just have to manage however you can.

I know it is extremely terrifying and sometimes you might wish you had died. But eventually you will climb out of the darkness. People can help you in the most unexpected ways. Share what you are ready for, when you are ready. Some people advocate talking it all out. That works for some people. Others have to keep moving, keep distracted. That is okay too. Just know that you are not alone.

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

We need to get men on board. We need men to stop attacking women and treating them like property. We need other women to be allies and stop victim-blaming. We need education from a very young age to respect people’s boundaries, to treat others with dignity and compassion. We need a better legal system for the prosecution of violent crime.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I just want to make a difference in any way I can. I spent two years going through hell and do not want that time to go to waste. I desperately want to protect my two little sisters. I like the idea that everyone has a part to play in ending violence against women, and I want to leave the earth a little safer for the children I hope to have one day.

SURVIVOR STORIES 2015: Jessica Hawkinson, 17, 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 fifth 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Jessica Hawkinson from the U.S.A.

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:

Jessica Hawkinson is going to Clarkson University to fulfil her goal of majoring in psychology and journalism.  She spends a lot of time writing papers on Rape Culture and making YouTube videos on the ideology of Rape Culture existing in today’s society. She talks to people who have gone through similar experiences and help as much as she can. She has created a website called Help Find Your Voice to help others get the help they need, while sharing their experiences to help others come forward and find strength in their voices together.  She is also very active in sports, playing both ice hockey and lacrosse and loves hiking with her friends. 

senior pic1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I was dating a guy for what ended up being a total of 9 months but after the first two, he started to be controlling and demanding. He manipulated me in a way that made me feel as though I was the one hurting him (for example, he said he would kill himself if I left him).

Eventually, his actions grew to the point of threatening and eventually raping me. He controlled me to the point that when he did sexually assault me in public and when others asked, I would say that he did it all the time and that it did not bother me, even though it hurt me more and more each time.

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

I ended up moving to a different state for boarding school. It was not the kind of relationship that he wanted so we ended things within 2 weeks.

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

To be honest, it took me a while. However, I finally confided in a friend of mine who pushed me to speak up and talk to the school psychologist that we had on campus. I was very uncomfortable talking about it but he helped me get to where I was able to say what needed to be said. I learned to trust again and felt comfortable in more social situations as the talking continued. I learned that a wonderful way to help myself get over my experience was to help others and advocate for domestic violence and the rape victims who cannot speak up.

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

Tell someone. I know that it seems like the hardest thing in the world right now, but it helps so much in the long run. Sharing your experience, how it made you feel, how it still makes you feel, helps you move on and learn to live your life for yourself again.

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

It won’t be an easy thing to do, but first and foremost, people need to stop blaming the victims. I don’t care if they were drunk or if they were wearing some skimpy outfit, it WAS NOT and NEVER WILL BE their fault. We need to come together as an organisation, as a community, as the entire world, and speak up about the truth of this. The people who refuse to believe that these kinds of things happen to thousands of women a year need to become aware of what is really happening in our world. And those who are doing these to us need to know that they aren’t going to get away with it – that they WILL face the consequences for their actions and that they aren’t going to win over these women. This is our life and we will take it back.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because if the allowing those who have been victims to speak up and share their story so that we can help others who are going through these situations get through them. You cannot do this alone, but as a group of women (and men) coming together and being there for each other, we  can ensure that no one will ever go through this alone and that we will all come out stronger.

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.