Here is part two of our interview with Project Empowerment founder and author of Escaping the Glass Cage, Kathleen M. Schmidt. For more information about Kathleen’s work, visit her website and the Project Empowerment blog.

You have said that you always had a burning desire to be an artist of some kind. When was the moment that you finally put pen to paper, and started writing your debut novel. Was it an epic moment?

It was epic.

I remember standing at my dresser, looking in the mirror and saying to myself “I need to do something more, I need to do something bigger.” I knew I needed to write my story. I started to write in my journal and put my feelings down. I wrote everything down. I got it onto paper.

Tell us more about your debut novel “Escaping the glass cage.” What does it hope to achieve?

I wrote it primarily for women living in a shelter. I share my experience of domestic violence, and then I share the steps I took to get out of it and empower my life. I wanted to highlight what is essential: once you have left, what you need to do in order to stay out of the abusive relationship cycle, and not fall into the hands of another abusive partner. My book is about empowerment from within. To be a person who can contribute to a positive, strong relationship you need to be a positive, strong person. How are you going to bring happiness to a relationship when you lack confidence and happiness yourself?

You need to stand on your own two feet. The two people in a relationship need to complement each other, not complete each other.

It isn’t a big book. When a woman is in crisis the last thing she wants are endless pages of another woman’s pain. I communicate the details of what happened to me, but the most important part is the steps that I took to heal after.

I also wanted to help educate others on domestic violence so they would have a glimmer of what it is like from a victim’s point of view.

Tell us more about Project Empowerment.

A couple of months after my book was published, I felt once again that I needed to do something bigger. I felt that my central message wasn’t about domestic violence, but about empowerment. So I began my Blog Talk Radio show “Project Empowerment.”

Each show is about empowering lives everywhere. I have a global audience, because this is a global issue. There are over 5,000 listeners now, and that number grows with every show. It’s great to know so many people out there want to improve their lives.

My first guest was Betty Makoni, a gender activist and Director of Girl Child Network Worldwide, an incredible woman who does incredibly empowering work. All of my guests share their experience and personal journey and tell us how they empowered their lives and the methods they used.

Your hobby of diving with sharks is as challenging and exciting as your project “Climb for Empowerment.” Please tell us a bit about both.

Ha! I’ve only been diving with sharks once! But it was an incredible experience and I’d love to do it again one day. In a cage of course!

The idea for Climb for Empowerment is a symbolic one. Standing at ground zero of a mountain and aiming for the top was like a woman fleeing for her life–no possessions, no money, nothing–and starting again.

I am going to climb Mount Rainer in September. I have no experience or skills in mountaineering. I am training every day and step by step I am working towards reaching the peak. That’s what my journey was like after I finally left my situation. Step by step, day by day, I became stronger and stronger and finally found my way.

I am doing this for every woman who has had to rebuild her life. It’s a symbolic climb.

I am also raising money for two very important organisations: The Pixel Project and Girlchild Network Worldwide.

There is a Donation Link on my website and I will be grateful if you can donate!

Why do you think domestic violence is still such a huge problem in our society today?

I think it begins with attitudes. We live in patriarchal society where we don’t think about the language and the inherent attitudes we prevail upon our children. Why do we give boys airplanes and girls barbie dolls? Why can’t we give girls the aspiration of flying a plane one day, giving them wings so they can fly too? Why do we tell boys “Don’t cry”. Why can’t they cry? Why do we say “Don’t be a girl!” In our language we are promoting a view that women are weak, and that men must bottle up their feelings. We need to be aware of the language we use and promote equality. We need to allow men to be able to express their feelings and cry if they need to.

We need to treat each other equally and with respect. It starts with our families and how we teach our children. Teaching them about equality and being aware of inherent attitudes that exist in all of us.

You are an incredible role model to the victims of domestic violence, and you have proven that it is possible to triumph over adversity. What would you say to someone who is on step one of that empowerment ladder?

Above all–before the healing can begin–you must get to a place of safety. Get yourself out of danger. That is day and step one of your healing path. It all begins with having the courage to leave. It is essential that you put your safety first.

Then, when you are in a place of safety, take a deep breath… and believe you are worthy of more. You are worthy of a fulfilling, empowered life. You can start again.

Take one day, one step, one minute at a time. It took me 15 years to get to the point where I was ready to share my story with the world. You have to start by believing that you are worthy of something more, something better, something bigger.

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