“I finally accepted that I had been a victim, and although I survived that night, denial hinders growth and I had to do more to be a true survivor.”
Over the past five years I’ve shared my Domestic Abuse journey all over the world. This week was a major turning point for me when a fellow victim connected with me. Not just any victim, but a victim of the same man who tried to kill me.
After my mum’s death, I realised I needed to pause and focus on my recovery. I wasn’t afraid to say to my ex-partner ‘I need some time out.’ Sensible? I thought so. Moments later, he pulled out a gun and tried to kill me. It was a major turning point, and I lived my life in fear and shame. I had always been noticeably confident, and yet this new version of me was constantly looking over my shoulder. I felt paranoid, vulnerable, and violated. I avoided the area he lived in, I invested in security cameras and was careful about what I said to people in case he found out where I was and came back to finish what he started. I had a public profile and yet I retreated, dreading his attempts to contact me via social media. I worried for his new victims. I told my closest friends, as domestic abuse victims often do when we know in our gut that somebody wants us dead, ‘If anything should ever happen to me… it’s him.’ – Excerpt from All About Me, by Dr Diahanne Rhiney
It took me several years to find my voice after a former partner tried to murder me. My biggest obstacle to freedom was my own overbearing feeling of shame, of feeling as though somehow my story wasn’t as worthy as others, that I wasn’t a real Domestic Abuse victim because I had gotten away; I had survived. I felt that if I spoke up, the emotional impact on my family would mean he had won. It was a new type of fear and vulnerability I had never experienced before.
The moment the reality of what I had survived really hit me, I knew I had a duty and a right to speak up. Like so many victims, by the time this feeling hit me it had been years since that night and I felt that in not reporting it, I was voiceless.
I finally accepted that I had been a victim, and although I survived that night, denial hinders growth and I had to do more to be a true survivor. Accepting I was a victim and speaking out were the first steps in my personal victory. I set up my charity Strength With In Me Foundation (S.W.I.M), launched a global campaign, #CanYouHearUsNow? to empower other victims to join me, wrote articles, delivered TEDX speeches and have given many interviews over the years on my survival story from victim to victor. Every time I speak out, it is with other victims in mind, including the faceless women I often worried my ex-partner would target next. I was ready to face the world with my story and stand up to Domestic Abuse, but what should I do about him? I had no idea where he was or what had become of him.
This week I appeared on #NoJokes, hosted by Eddie Nestor, to speak about Domestic Abuse and my own brush with death. Nothing prepared me for the moment I came off air and received a message saying, ‘I have just listened to your interview and I believe we have been abused by the same man’.
I was hit with two emotions, the first was sincere relief that my exes next victim is alive to tell the tale. The second was like a lightning bolt from the universe. It was like a neon light switching on pushing me to do something about him. I sat and spoke to this incredible survivor for hours; the only difference in our story was that I ran that night and didn’t look back other than to check over my shoulder! In her vulnerability, she had allowed him more chances, and so her abuse incidents were more. The moment she told me he had shown her the gun he had tried to kill me with, as a veiled threat, the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end.
Contrary to what those of us remember in the movie ‘The First Wives Club’, there was no feeling of revenge. There was a unique bond presented by the unusual circumstances of two women who have survived the same abuser. It was a feeling of solidarity, hope and understanding that I’ve rarely experienced. The universe truly works in mysterious ways. Of all the many times I’ve spoken about Domestic Abuse, this woman I’ve never met, happened to tune in to that particular show on a Sunday afternoon for a reason.
Nothing happens by coincidence. I have devoted so many years of my life to building a global Tribe of women because I have always believed that when women share their stories and collaborate on learning and growth, the possibilities are endless. This is especially true among survivors of abuse.
I needed to share this because it affirmed to me the power of speaking up, you never know who you are saving or who your story might resonate with. It also affirmed to me the power of the universe when it comes to justice and truth. I now have some serious questions to ask myself and some decisions to make that are potentially lifesaving.
‘What’s done in the dark will come to light’ Luke 12:2-3