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-ninth 2015 Survivor Stories interview is with Brianne Coleman from the U.S.A.
TRIGGER WARNING: The first two Q&As in this interview may be distressing for some Domestic Violence survivors.
The Survivor Bio:
Brianne Coleman is first and foremost a mother and a wife. She is a survivor of child molestation, rape and domestic violence. When she is not with her loving husband and children, she is either working as a legal assistant in Chicago or acting as an advocate for both victims and survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. She will be attending Graduate School at Purdue University in the fall to obtain her MBA and is currently writing her book of survivorship that will hopefully be published by the end of the year. She has become the face of St. Jude House, a battered women’s shelter in Northwest Indiana and plans to continue the mission of St. Jude House and support others who have been in her shoes. In Brianne’s spare time, when she has some, she enjoys riding her motorcycle with her husband and bowling with her family.
1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?
My youngest son’s father started his abuse three months into our relationship. The first time he hit me was on New Year’s Eve 2002. He beat me with a belt for an hour that time and forced me to sit in a scalding hot bath.
I left the following day, stayed away for a few months and during that time, I found out I was pregnant and went back. He promised to get help, get on meds and never hit me again. I believed him but the violence gradually got worse. He locked me and my oldest son in our apartment for days and days without a phone. He would come home and beat me, rape me and sexually assault me at gun point during my entire pregnancy. He constantly threatened to kill our unborn son. The day I came home from the hospital after having our son, he forced me to walk to the car instead of pushing me in a wheelchair. When I didn’t move fast enough, he kicked me in my private parts. I was 24 hours post-delivery. He was crazy and I was scared to leave.
He had severe mental illness and I knew I couldn’t stay much longer or he’d kill me. It was two months later, in November 2003, that he called me home from work and beat me for over three hours. His weapon of choice that day was his fists, plunger sticks, glass candles and whatever else he could find. My oldest son was 2 ½ and watched the entire episode. He was crying so hard that he vomited on himself and my son’s father literally threw him in the bathtub. He had been abusive to him as well. He hung me over the stair banister and threatened to kill me. He kidnapped our infant son and took off.
I called my other son’s grandma and she got me out of the house. We had to wait for the SWAT team before I could get my baby. About three hours after I left, the police swarmed our apartment and he was arrested and my son was returned to me.
2. How did you escape the violent situation/relationship/ritual?
After he was arrested on November 13, 2003, I went to our apartment and gathered as many of my things as possible and went to St. Jude House, a battered women’s shelter. The care I received was unbelievable. They were great. They were supportive and non-judgmental.
I stayed for a little over 60 days until I was able to get on my feet. I got an apartment that they helped me furnish and we started our lives over again, fresh and anew. I took him back one more time after that. I still loved him. He got upset with me one night because I didn’t want to have sex and he beat me and raped me again and slept with my phone so I couldn’t call 911.
The next day, I called the police and that was it. I was done. I never looked back.
3. How did you heal and rebuild your life after the violent situation/relationship/ritual? What actions did you take?
Healing is a long and difficult process. Admitting all the things that he did to me was the hardest. I had a hard time accepting the fact that a man I loved could hurt me, rape me, and violate me in the way he did. It was difficult. I started rebuilding my life after the last time by signing up for college and getting my degree. I wanted to do better for my children.
I managed to get my Associate’s Degree in less than a year and my Bachelor’s Degree in about 15 months. In 2008, St. Jude House asked me to speak at their Annual Vigil as a survivor. That was Stage 1 of my healing process. I sought therapy afterwards and forgave him. It’s part of the process. I will never forget what he did to me and a part of me is still scared, but I have to remember that I am a survivor for a reason.
Earlier this year, I was asked to be the Guest of Honour for St. Jude House at the First Look for Charity Event hosted by the Chicago Auto Show. I was able to tell my story in a docu-drama film that was shared at the event and has been shared at other events. I plan on spending the remainder of my life being an advocate and telling my story to inspire others.
4. What would you suggest to or share with another woman or girl facing the same situation as you did?
It is difficult to tell someone what to do in these situations because until they are ready to walk away, they won’t walk away. I share this motto, “When the fear of staying is greater than the fear of leaving” is when victims become survivors and get away from their abusers. At least that was the truth for me.
As an advocate, I encourage and support, offer resources and listen. I am support. I share my story as inspiration and hope to continue inspiring others.
5. How do you think we can end violence against women?
Ending violence against women is a challenge because so many women don’t know the signs. So many women have low self-esteem and those abusers prey on those women. We need more support, more resources and more love from women. So many women are afraid to tell their stories.
I created a support group on Facebook and many of the women, years after their abuse, are still afraid to tell their stories. We need to find a platform where women of all cultures, all races, all socio-economic backgrounds can come together to uplift and encourage women. It starts with each individual doing their part.
Also, laws need to be stricter for the abusers. A slap on the wrist isn’t doing the trick. Restraining orders mean nothing to abusers. Stricter laws and more assistance to women who endure violence at the hands of men is a great start.
6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?
I support The Pixel Project because it is an international organisation that can and will touch many men and women. Social media is so large that it will reach wider audiences and that makes me happy. I love that celebrities are involved because, as we know, people follow celebrities. I would love more than anything to be a part of this movement. Stop violence against women. That’s one of my very personal goals.