The Pixel Project is proud to present our fifth annual Survivor Stories Blog Interview Project in honour of Mother’s Day 2018. The annual campaign runs throughout the month of May 2018 and features up to 31 interviews with a survivor of any form of violence against women (VAW) including domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, stalking,  online violence against women, female genital mutilation, forced/child marriage, sex trafficking, breast ironing etc. 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 7th 2018 Survivor Stories interview is with Cassandra Kazcor from the USA. 

This interview is courtesy of The Sunflower Project, an organisation dedicated to educating teens about consent and intimate partner violence.

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


The Survivor Bio:

Cassandra Kaczor is a Chicago-based composer, pianist and multimedia artist focused on issues of social justice and women’s empowerment. Kaczor completed her master’s degree in music composition as a performing arts scholar at Roosevelt University Chicago College of Performing Arts. She is also the co-founder of Brunch Project Productions, a production company that creates and manages musical works that impact and empower. Kaczor is currently a resident artist at the Djerassi Artist Colony. Kaczor works as a professional pianist and singer, entertaining on an international scale, and as a freelance teacher, performer and composer.


cassandra-kaczor1. What is your personal experience with gender-based violence (this may include domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation etc)?

I am a survivor of sexual assault, sexual abuse, workplace harassment, and domestic violence. The only one of these experiences that I still experience is workplace harassment.


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

Leaving areas where I had been assaulted or abused was key in ‘escaping’ —the perpetrators were 1-2 time assailants, and moving to Chicago helped to create distance from them. In regard to my toxic relationship, I called my ex-boyfriend’s father to explain the situation and asked his help in moving my ex out of my apartment while I was out of the country.


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

I don’t know that I’ve entirely healed or rebuilt anything—but I have made great improvements with trust, as I’m in a very healthy and loving relationship now. My current partner was an advocate for consent and healthy relationships in his past, and understands how to help me and listen to me when I am in a fragile place.

I advocate for survivors by working with two organisations—the Sunflower Project and the Awakenings Foundation—that do outreach, education, and therapy through the arts. I’ve also gotten help with therapists, and I am very vocal and public about being a survivor. I find that it helps to create understanding and dialogue.


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

This is tricky because everyone has a different journey. While in an abusive relationship, the advice of friends urging me to break up with my ex, and afterward, encouragement to get a restraining order were not what I needed to hear at the time. Our minds and bodies react differently when we are in a place of fear.

Retrospectively, I think that feeling as if reaching out for help was okay and not a gesture of weakness would have been helpful. I wish I would have acted through a legal system with the support of close friends and family but I was too scared to do so. I would encourage women and girls to share their experiences with loved ones and be kind to themselves and/or do some soul searching about the best way to proceed so that they feel safe and supported.


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

Education — all kinds. Sex education, relationship education, cultural education, and from a young age. Middle school, or even younger. I think embedding a culture of consent into students from an early age is key in shaping the worldview of each generation.

If I had known what rape looked like in the same way that I understood “Don’t Drink and Drive!” or “Bullying is bad!” as a young person, maybe I would have seen the warning signs sooner.


6. Why do you support The Pixel Project?

I support The Pixel Project because I hope that the information about violence against women that they provide will lead to better relationship education and advocacy for survivors.