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 nineteenth 2016 Survivor Stories interview is with Paulissa Kipp from the USA.

TRIGGER WARNING: The first two Q&As in this interview may be distressing for some Domestic Violence survivors.


The Survivor Bio:

Paulissa Kipp, CPSWS, is a certified Peer Support Provider with extensive lived experience in child sexual abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault. Through her advocacy, she educates community partners and dental/medical/nursing students about the affects of trauma and the importance of listening to survivors when they self-advocate. Paulissa facilitates healing art for trauma survivors through her company Paulissa Kipp’s Art of Becoming.

Paulissa Kipp1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence?

I was 23 years old and had been a victim of child physical and sexual abuse. I went from my mother’s house to playing house when I met a travelling musician – a man more than 20 years my senior.

He was charming and handsome and he promised to take care of me, which is just what a child of abuse wants – to be cared for. I quit my job, sold my car and followed him to another state. Shortly after we set up house together, the beating started: for not having dinner ready early enough, for having it ready too early, for showing cleavage, for getting a spot of paint on a window screen.

The phone was either on or off to serve his needs, the electricity and water were often off, and he would take off for days while I was home with no food. He intercepted my mail, isolated me from others and we lived 5 miles from the nearest neighbour.


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

He came home drunk one night after spending 2 weeks in Oklahoma City “looking for work”. It was 3 am and he came in demanding dinner, which I refused to heat up for him. He hit me so hard he dislocated my jaw.

I barricaded myself in the bathroom and put a chest of drawers between myself and the door and pushed with all my might. He threw butcher knives at the door, missing my face by inches. When I thought he had passed out, I opened the door, only to be hit again. I ran into the basement and hid for what seemed like hours until I heard him snore.

I packed my legal documents and some personal effects and walked out the door but not until I held a shotgun to his temple and nearly pulled the trigger.

The knowledge that I could be pushed to the point of nearly committing murder is what made me leave. I walked out the door and he woke up and began shooting. I ran in the dark, sprained my ankle and walked 5 miles to the nearest house I could find. The owners took me to a women’s shelter where I spent the next 4 months before deciding to return to Nebraska and rebuild my life.


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

I stayed with friends after returning to Nebraska, got a job and saved for a car. I sought out counselling, which helped me with recognising the red flags that were present. I began telling my story and realised that I was not alone in my experience.


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

You may wonder if you will ever feel safe again. Safety is many things. You will learn what safety, at its deepest level means to you both within and outside of yourself. Maybe safety for you means being able to freely express yourself: to write, dance, speak, journal or make art. Maybe to listen to music that speaks to your soul.

You will learn to navigate the world in a different way and you will be the person who will see what others don’t. To ring the bell when something isn’t right. Because with survival comes wisdom.

You may think you are alone and you may doubt your worth and judgement. You are not alone. So many of your sisters and brothers see and hear you and we are holding space for you. We have loving hands for you to hold onto and strong shoulders to help carry the pain. You will learn that your gut is your best compass and you can trust it.


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

It takes everyone. I believe that learning non-violent communication skills, teaching men and women about de-escalation techniques and self-defense is a start. Also, teaching that domestic violence has many forms beyond just the physical form goes a long way.


6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

The Pixel Project’s goal and mine is the same: To advocate, educate and inform about violence against women and its effects. The use of social media and technology as well as the international focus and the engagement of men in the cause ensures that the focus stays on education, empowerment and prevention of violence against women. We need every tool in our arsenal, and the resources provided by The Pixel Project are invaluable in doing this work.