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 thirteenth 2016 Survivor Stories interview is with Julie Martin from the USA.
TRIGGER WARNING: The first two Q&As in this interview may be distressing for some Domestic Violence survivors.
The Survivor Bio:
I am an appointed Commissioner on the San Diego County Behavioral Health Board and I chair the first Women’s Behavioral Health Advocacy Committee for San Diego County. I also represent the BHB on the Children, Youth, and Family System of Care Council, San Diego. I own my own social media and website Design Company. Outside work, I am a mom, artist, pianist, and a competitive amateur golfer with aspirations of becoming professional golfer. I am also the Director of a Girls Golf Programme in San Diego County where I work with girls ages 6-17 and, through the game of golf, teach them confidence, how to engage socially, teamwork, and leadership skills.
1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?
I survived childhood abuse, sexual assault, and domestic violence: physical, emotional, psychological, and financial. I was held hostage and terrorised for 6 years by my former husband.
It took me years to recover from the damage that his abuse did to me. The psychological abuse was horrible and was what kept me a prisoner for so long. I was told by him that I wouldn’t survive out in the world alone and that no one would love me the way he loved me.
The breaking point was when he physically assaulted me in front of our 2-year-old daughter, Mina. That was when I finally got the courage to leave. I felt she deserved a better life and if it wasn’t for her I am not sure that I would have left.
2. How did you escape the violent situation/relationship/ritual?
When Mina and I returned home one afternoon, he was acting like he was on drugs. He wouldn’t talk to me, acted as if I wasn’t there, and walked through me, knocking me over. When he grabbed his car keys, I asked him where was he going and he told me I was on a “need-to-know basis.”
When he came home that evening, he took away my cellphone. He said since he paid the bill, it was his and I had the privilege of using it. When he went into the bathroom, I tried to grab my phone. He slammed the door on my arm several times, then locked himself in.
I used the home phone to call the police and tried to pack in order to leave. He came round the corner of the closet and the look on his face… if he had a gun he would have shot me in the head. He grabbed the phone from me, pushed me down, and threw my cellphone at me. He told the police that everything was fine.
The police showed up to the house and, after questioning both of us, finally arrested him. I knew I had 30 days before he returned home. The next day I filed for a temporary restraining order and a divorce.
3. How did you heal and rebuild your life after the violent situation/relationship/ritual? What actions did you take?
Mina and I left with nothing. I think I had $100 in my wallet and I never received child or spousal support. I sold all of my jewellery and was able to get a one-bedroom apartment.I packed up our essentials and my office and we moved in. I replaced everything else – I didn’t want a single memory of him in our new space. I wanted to feel safe and create new memories and a new life.
The most important thing I did was to create a solid stable foundation for Mina. I kept her life as normal as possible. I put her in ballet class and summer camp and made sure that I didn’t do any divorce work while she was awake.
My life is completely different and amazing today: I am remarried to the most amazing man in the world and I am able to work through the moments that are very difficult for me because I am surrounded by love and support. I have learnt to let things go and to keep moving forward. I have learnt to take time for myself and to take care of myself. Each day I get a little stronger. I use the past to thrive in my future: tragedy doesn’t mean you have to give up on life. I also share my story with the community to break the silence.
4. What would you suggest to or share with another woman or girl facing the same situation as you did?
- Never go back. Once you leave no matter what, never go back. You will heal and find yourself again. It will take time but it will get better.
- Learn to take time for yourself. Self-care is so important. Sleep when you need to, eat healthy, get into therapy, and take walks. Learn to love yourself and embrace the new you.
- Ask for help. This was very difficult for me but when I would ask for help, I got it, and if someone couldn’t help me they would point me in the right direction. DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP.
- Learn to trust your gut. The more you use this tool, the stronger it gets. I make my decisions today fully based on my gut feeling and I have never been let down. Trust the process.
- If you need to get a divorce, interview attorneys. Don’t go with the first one recommended or that you pick out of the phone book.
- Make art. One of the most healing things I ever did not only for myself but for my little one was paint. Painting or any other type of art is very healing and peaceful.
5. How do you think we can end violence against women?
We can end violence against women through education, knowledge, and public awareness campaigns.
Awareness and legislation also needs to be made regarding psychological and financial abuse. The public and family court system needs to be educated about this: physical abuse is terrible but the problem with psychological abuse is that while there are no bruises, it can be more scarring. I had a hard time getting help because I didn’t have a black eye – I couldn’t even get a permanent restraining order!
There also has to be resources available in communities for those who need it when they need it. These resources have to provide help and not fail the victim. This is really bad because the victim feels victimised all over again. This was something that I constantly struggled with. I couldn’t find resources or navigate the system very well and when I reached out to some of the available resources, they failed me. I am trying to make sure this doesn’t happen to another woman by making this problem known in my county so that the proper support system can be put into place so that victims can leave successfully. Knowing you can leave, feeling safe and having the proper resources are essential for surviving.
6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?
I support The Pixel Project because it is important to raise awareness and funding for violence against women. I like how this organisation creates opportunities for those who are passionate for helping to make the world a better place for women and girls.
I also like how The Pixel Project uses social media and technology as a platform to get their message out worldwide. In my eyes, this is one of the few ways in this day in age to be able to reach as many people as possible. Awareness, Education, and Support is what The Pixel Project is all about, and that is why I choose to support it.