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 second 2016 Survivor Stories interview is with Becky Paroz from Australia.
TRIGGER WARNING: The first two Q&As in this interview may be distressing for some Domestic Violence survivors.
The Survivor Bio:
Author Becky Paroz’s alter ego is Bekstar. While Becky had an award-winning career as a Project Manager in the construction industry, Bekstar was the personality that learned to manage the outcomes of growing up in a domestic violence situation and being diagnosed with a crippling disease while still a teenager. Her published writings capture her insights, journey, horror and humour that encapsulates her life, including the solutions she found to live her life to the fullest. Her style is conversational, practical, easy to read and designed to offer the lessons learnt throughout her tumultuous life for others to benefit from.
My first memories are of violence from my father. He was an alcoholic and I grew up with domestic violence as the norm.
My mother was frequently subject to this violence until I was old enough and then also subjected to his physical violence. It was so much a part of my life, I do not remember a time that it was not happening. I have memories, at about age 10, of his dragging my mother around by the hair and raping her at knife point. She does not have these memories, but rather large blanks spots throughout this time of her life.
At age 13, he also started to sexually assault me. This continued until I was able to leave home. My mother was “committed” after I had left home, which led him to ask me to “take on the wife duties” for him while she was incarcerated in the mental institute. There are too many incidents to simply pick one to discuss. I am very pleased that he is dead now.
2. How did you escape the violent situation/relationship/ritual?
I left home, but it was not an escape. After a while, when it became clear I could not remove my mother from the situation, I simply removed myself. I refused contact with both my parents and their situation for many years. My mother had no contact with her family at his behest, and when I realised I doing the same thing, I re-entered their lives.
I set very strict ground rules, making it clear that I would have no hesitation in contacting the police and airing all the dirty laundry if the behaviour was not to an acceptable standard in our interactions. I also made it clear that I was not to be touched or in any way inviting touch for any reason as another rule of our interactions. It was an act of power over him and as such, as most bullies do, he submitted.
I never felt free until he passed away. At that point my mother came to live with me and 4.5 years later is slowly healing her life and coming to terms with what she experienced.
3. How did you heal and rebuild your life after the violent situation/relationship/ritual? What actions did you take?
I took every action I could think of (and plenty I do not recommend).
I was faced with a chronic illness, diagnosed at 18 (shortly after I left home), which was another kind of debilitating incident to impact me. However, I do believe this decision point around the disease – to continue and make the best of my life, or give up and quit for keeps – was instrumental in moving me forward in controlling my life, obtaining the outcomes I wanted, and getting the education I have sought to deal with my experience.
I have read every kind of self-help books I could find, undertaking coaching and learnt how to be a coach, and various other activities to move towards the desire for myself to be in control of my life.
My main thought for the aftermath is that while I could not choose what happened to me during his controlling years, I could certainly choose my actions beyond that point. Making conscious choices about what I want as a person, instead of what I don’t want as a result of those experiences, is the most clear way I can phrase how I have become the successful person I am today.
4. What would you suggest to or share with another woman or girl facing the same situation as you did?
Get out. Cut ties. Once clear of the situation, seek advice, support and knowledge, and read everything you can on the subject of what happened to you and also who you wish to be.
Spend time with healthy families and learn that not every fight leads to violence. Spend time with people who drink and realise that not everyone who drinks is an alcoholic one step away from violence outbursts.
Read others’ stories. Talk to qualified and trusted advisors. Listen to everything, but in the end, own what you choose to think and be clear why you choose it. That is the only power you will ever need to be a whole person again.
Also, understand and accept that the rage never leaves you, and that it is okay to mourn what happened, as long as it does not dictate the rest of your life, your choices and who you are being in every moment.
Make the most of your freedom once you have it as you know what it is like to not have that freedom. Demonstrate empathy for others, but do not try and save others in that circumstance. Show them how you did it and let them make their choices.
5. How do you think we can end violence against women?
Teach children about empathy, about differences, and allow them to express themselves in a safe environment if it is happening to them. Believe them when they talk about what might be happening at home.
Educate young adults about consent, about violence, and how it is not always from an alcoholic, or from a fist. Words wound more than bruises. Bruises fade, bones heal. The words you hear as a child stay with you forever.
Speak out and stand strong as a collective against the bullying that is so casual in our world. Publish books and make sure young people, even children, can access this information so they can learn early about what might be happening to them.
Encourage women to stand together and not to tear one another down is also a good start; if we can stand together and stop pulling each other’s hair (metaphorically speaking) then we would be a force to be reckoned with.
6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?
Because I believe in what The Pixel Project does. Because I have been there and experienced first hand the damage a broken childhood causes. Because I believe that I need to be a part of the solution, not merely an observer with experience. Because I made it out of that cycle and I want to be a part of assisting other women to break the chains that violence creates inside your own head.