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 twenty-third 2016 Survivor Stories interview is with Sara Ackerman from the USA.

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The Survivor Bio:

Sara still gets excited about going in to work every morning, even after over a decade on the job. Not only does she have a great job teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) and helping immigrants, she gets to explore her other passions during the summer. When she’s not teaching grad classes or speaking professionally about ESL, she likes to write. Recently Sara published her first novel and will be releasing her second one by June of 2016. Sara is a survivor of domestic violence. She is grateful every day for second chances, and a fulfilling life with her husband and two beautiful children.

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

I am a survivor of domestic violence. My ex-husband was an alcoholic, drug addicted sociopath who tormented me psychologically and physically for eighteen months.

 

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

One night he called me at work to yell at me. He was angry that his alarm clock did not go off, so he missed work. He blamed me and then threatened to kill me and take the baby.

That’s when I knew that I could not stay with him anymore. I called my parents and went straight from work to their house. I don’t know that I would have left had he not threatened my baby.

 

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

I threw myself into providing a good life for my child and me. With the help of my parents and friends who had not abandoned me during the abuse, I went back to school, got my teaching license and became a teacher.

Additionally, I started therapy and was treated for depression, anxiety and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I suppressed much of the trauma I had experienced until I was mentally ready to deal with it. It’s only been in the last three years that I have been working through the most severe trauma of the abuse with my therapist. It’s hard, emotional work, but I am in a loving and stable relationship and in a safe environment. I finally feel like I can let go of the past.

 

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

If a relationship hurts you or makes you feel worthless, then it is time to get out. It is a scary proposition and easier said than done, but it is so important to get out before it’s too late.

Find someone you can trust to help you – a parent, a neighbour, a friend. If you don’t have someone you trust, go to a church, or a women’s shelter. Just take that first step and go.

 

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

It is so important to talk about domestic abuse and other types of gender-based violence. Many survivors feel shame for what happened because it is still a very hush-hush topic in today’s society. Survivors need to be encouraged to speak about what happened to them so that others can understand the myriad of factors that comprise gender-based violence.

I think society as a whole has an image in their head of what an abuse victim looks like, but it’s so much more all-encompassing than the average person could ever realise. Abuse touches everyone in every social class, ethnicity, religion, and age group, but perversely, no one ever thinks it could happen to them. Only through the process of honest, non-judgemental dialogue with survivors of gender-based violence can members of society begin to truly see the toxic prevalence of abuse found in their own neighbourhoods. Only then it is possible that true change can occur.

 

6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because their Survivor Stories campaign provides survivors with a platform for their voices to be heard and recognised. Perhaps our collective voices raised up in strength and unity will give those who remain in silence the courage to finally speak.

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