Posts tagged Sexual Assault

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: 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: Kristin Brumm, 49, 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 eighth Survivor Stories interview is with Kristin Brumm from the U.S.A.

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The Survivor Bio:

Kristin Brumm is a writer and non-profit executive living in Kansas with her two children. Her blog Wanderlust was voted into the Circle of Mom’s top 10 Most Inspiring Blogs as a result of her honest and poignant writings about her experiences with domestic violence. She was a Voice of the Year and Keynote Speaker at the 2011 Australian Bloggers Conference, and her essays have been published in several anthologies. She created the “Healing Through Storytelling” blog directory as a means of support for people who have experienced emotional or physical trauma. 

Kristin Brumm1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

When I was nine, I was sexually molested by our gardener. This happened over the course of a summer. It ended when my brother witnessed one of the assaults and told my parents. He was arrested and convicted.

More recently, I was assaulted by my ex-husband as we were negotiating a divorce. He chased me into the bathroom and pounded several holes in the door as I called the police. Two weeks later, I discovered he was under investigation for possession and possible production of child pornography. I was absolutely gutted.

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

I knew that leaving my marriage would be difficult and potentially dangerous, but I wanted my children to be raised in a healthy and safe home. Not only was I physically afraid of my husband, but he was a man of means and used his resources to wage an exhausting legal battle for custody.

The fact that my ex-husband was charged with possession of child pornography both helped and hindered our safety. His imprisonment means that I am physically safe. However, it took three years for his case to wind through the courts and during that time I was very frightened for our safety. I was fortunate in that I had a network of friends and even strangers that offered us safe housing until he was convicted.

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

I write a blog and when I was first assaulted, I made the difficult decision to speak openly about my experiences with violence. The response was phenomenal. Women and men from all over the world wrote to offer their support and friendship. They reminded me daily that I was strong, brave and compassionate, which was a balm after years of psychological abuse. They were a hundred sets of hands holding a net to catch my fall.

The other thing I did was to explore some of the new brain-based therapies, such as EMDR and EFT, which studies have shown to offer fast and lasting healing, especially with symptoms of PTSD. I found them to be effective and hugely beneficial in helping me move beyond the trauma and reclaim my confidence and joy of life. I am intrigued by the inherent power of our brains, bodies and emotions to recover and heal from even significant trauma.

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

I think first and foremost we need to listen to our instincts. Our intuition is our guardian and we need to respect and honour that deep wisdom.

Secondly, I think expression can be healing. While it may not always be safe to speak out publicly, as I did, we can still do so privately. When we tell our stories, we get to craft a unique narrative about our experiences and imbue it with our own meaning. In so doing, we take back the reins. Storytelling is empowering and tremendously healing, not only for ourselves, but for those who read and connect with our stories.

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

When we share our personal stories, it provides a vehicle through which others can empathise with us. If I share my story with you, perhaps you will see that we are not all that different. We both feel fear and grief and joy, and we both love our children with abandon. It bridges the gap between “us” and “them”. When we share our stories about violence, then victims of violence cease to become a faceless demographic that others can objectify and distance themselves from. Instead, the faces of violence become personal and intimate, which in turn raises understanding and compassion.

7. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I think technology and social media are powerful tools for driving dialogue and awareness. We are in the unique position today of being able to instantly connect with people from a variety of backgrounds from all over the world. The Pixel Project capitalises on this power by using it to creatively disseminate ideas and raise awareness. I love the thought that I can participate in the same project as someone on the other side of the world and that, despite being strangers, we can be united in our shared experience.

I also like that The Pixel Project does not point to men as the problem, but rather embraces them as part of the solution. In the end, what matters is that we are all able to better understand and extend compassion to each other. Blaming and ostracism won’t heal our world. Only love will heal our world.

THE SURVIVOR STORIES PROJECT: Ashley Sapp, 26, 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 second Survivor Stories interview is with Ashley Sapp from the U.S.A.

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The Survivor Bio:

Ashley Sapp is a writer and wannabe editor from South Carolina. She is a language and literature enthusiast as well as an activist in the cause to end violence against women. She is also a survivor of rape and volunteers in her local community as well as with The Pixel Project. Her blog (chaosandwords.com) caters to the creative side of her brain, and she can also be found on twitter at @chaosandwords.

Ashley Sapp1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

When I was 16, I attended a party where I was drugged and then raped. Because I was there with friends, I never thought twice that anything of that nature could happen to me. I am from a small town, and you simply didn’t hear much about gender-based violence… but that obviously didn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Afterwards, it took me a while to acknowledge what happened and even longer to not blame myself for it.

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

It was a one-time occurrence, and I didn’t get the chance to escape. It was partly like an out-of-body experience, where I was aware of what was happening to me but helpless to stop it.

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

For a long time, I didn’t heal. It was easier to pretend it never happened, to ignore it completely. However, I began to understand that even though I wasn’t dealing with the aftermath, I was suffering. I was depressed, anxious, and felt incredibly guilty as though it was somehow my fault. When I went to college and was surrounded by new faces in a new town, I finally went to therapy where I was also diagnosed with PTSD. I started writing about what happened, how I felt and thought about it, and began volunteering. I wanted other women to know they weren’t alone, that they have a voice and deserve to be heard. I wanted to help fight back.

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

Never let anyone or anything diminish your self-worth. These experiences do become part of you, true, but they do not define you. You are a survivor; believe that. Also, it is okay to not feel okay. You are not weak for it, but instead, when you are self-aware of your emotions, you can better help yourself through them. Remember that you are not alone and that there are resources and people out there who understand what you are going through. You WILL come out on the other side, and whatever has happened to you is not your fault. Though there are those who choose not to believe this sort of violence exists, the truth is in plain sight. You do not have to feel ashamed about the situations you are/were in, and you do not have to hide. You do have a voice, and no one can take that away from you. Every day is a new beginning, and sometimes it takes quite a few of them before you begin feeling whole again. Don’t lose hope in the possibility – it will keep you going.

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

Awareness and knowledge are key, so I think sharing facts, news, and resources is a great place to start. In doing so, we keep the discussion going and we can keep pushing the world to recognize how common violence against women is and that we can work to end it. Every individual who lends his/her voice to the cause helps move the cause forward, so I think enforcing the notion that we are not powerless is also important.

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because I believe in its cause – as a survivor, as a woman, as a human. The endless focus and energy on bringing an end to violence against women is dear to me because of my own experience that I share with thousands of others. It has given me strength, given me a way to fight back, given me hope that it is possible to turn things around.

A Few Words Before We Begin The Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project

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A very warm welcome to the Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project!

Sharing one’s survivor story is a highly sensitive and personal decision. It isn’t an easy thing  to do so, especially when victim-blaming-and-shaming is the typical knee-jerk response to any form of Violence Against Women (VAW) in many communities and cultures worldwide. Consequently, most survivors subside into silence, preferring to recover from the abuse and rebuild their lives privately, quietly, peacefully.

We know this because we have listened to survivors (some of whom have been part of The Pixel Project team or who have supported our campaigns for years) tell us this.

We know this because when we do our daily curation of news about violence against women and girls worldwide to share via our social media channels, stories and interviews with VAW survivors are still too few and far between.

We – all of us, not just The Pixel Project team – should know this because with at least 1 in 3 women worldwide having faced some form of VAW in their lives, it is pretty much inevitable that some of our friends, family members, co-workers, classmates, and neighbours are survivors. We just don’t know who they are because they don’t talk about it.

I know this because my maternal grandmother who survived over half a century of abuse from my (now late) maternal grandfather doesn’t want to talk about it. Neither do my aunts, uncles, and my mother who all grew up witnessing their father’s violence against their mother, and who all escaped from home as soon as they finished high school. They consider it a shame and embarrassment to do so publicly, or even privately. “He’s dead. Let bygones be bygones” is the unspoken collective decision made by the majority.

This wall of silence surrounding the violence is still so entrenched in many families, communities, and cultures, that it is deafening. It exists not just because of the victim-blaming-and-shaming norms out there, but also because there still aren’t enough safe spaces and positive platforms for survivors to share their stories.

With this in mind, The Pixel Project created the Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project as a positive way for survivors of any form of VAW to share their stories with an emphasis on how they survived and thrived after escaping the violence. It is our sincere hope that these stories will be beacons of hope that will inspire and lift the spirits of women and girls worldwide who are still experiencing abuse, or are in the process of rebuilding their lives.

When The Pixel Project sent out our calls for submissions for the Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project, we had no idea what to expect… Then our inbox started filling up with interview submissions: Story after story from women who have survived VAW and have gone on to live successful and positive violence-free lives. They poured out their hearts in the interview sheets, not just telling us about their VAW experience, but also eager to share advice, tips, information and encouraging words with women and girls who are victims of VAW.

In fact, we were inundated: we received so many submissions that it was extremely difficult to select just 31 stories to feature throughout May 2014 in conjunction with Mother’s Day. Every submission we received spoke volumes about the awe-inspiring resilience of the human spirit and the mighty courage of the human heart. Each story is unique, yet collectively they carry the same positive message for victims and survivors everywhere: Surviving and thriving after escaping the violence is possible, and healing may be a long journey but there are steps you can take to get there and there is light at the end of the very dark tunnel.

Ever mindful of the fact that VAW takes so many forms  (including domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, sex trafficking, female genital mutilation, acid attacks, child marriage etc) and cuts across social, class, racial, religious, geographical, and cultural lines, we tried our best to ensure that the stories selected are as inclusive as possible and present a spectrum of perspectives from women from all walks of life. For this project, it was a challenge because even though we sent out repeated calls-to-action specifically welcoming women of colour, women from developing nations, aboriginal/native women, submissions from them remained in the minority. Nevertheless, this is only the beginning and we will continue to work on creating and providing platforms that give survivors of VAW from across the world opportunities to share their stories and work on stopping VAW.

To the survivors who have stepped up to share your stories with the world through us: We salute your courage in doing so – it is a great honour for us to be entrusted to help you share your stories with the world.

To our supporters and the person on the (digital) street who reads these stories: We hope that this series of stories will give you much food for thought and perhaps inspire you to take action to stop violence against women and girls in your communities and beyond.

And finally: This project is also part of a programme of initiatives held 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 help reveal the mystery Celebrity Male Role Models and be part of a global effort to 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. Please donate generously to help us stay alive and to keep projects like this one running – donations begin at just US$10 and you can donate via the Pixel Reveal website here or the Pixel Reveal Razoo donation page here.

It’s time to stop violence against women. Together.

With a heart full of love and hope,

Regina Yau – Founder and President of The Pixel Project

On behalf of The Pixel Project team

 

CALL TO ACTION: The Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project

Blog and PenIn honour of Mother’s Day 2014,  The Pixel Project cordially invites women and girls who have survived gender-based violence to join the Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project which will debut on 1 May 2014.

The project will feature an interview with a survivor per day on The Pixel Project’s blog throughout the month of May 2014. 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 2014 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 new extended deadline of 25 April 2014.

To download the interview sheet, click this link:

http://reveal.thepixelproject.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/The-Pixel-Project-Survivor-Stories-Project-Interview-Sheet_25April2014.doc

For further information and assistance:

Email The Pixel Project team – info@thepixelproject.net  

For more information about the Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign:

Visit http://reveal.thepixelproject.net