real life

Simone's partner wouldn't take 'no' for an answer. It ended with Simone almost losing her life.

Warning: This post discusses domestic violence and contains graphic images.

Simone O'Brien's perpetrator would not take "no" for an answer.

It started with emotional and psychological abuse, their nine-month relationship filled with his lies, stealing and the flinging of insults. It ended with Simone being beaten with a baseball bat to within inches of her life. 

Today, Simone is a passionate educator in the domestic and family violence space. Not only that, she is also a survivor. And her story needs to be heard.

In early 2012, Simone was a busy single mum to three kids, aged 15, 12 and 10. Simone had previously split from the children's father and was getting on with life — working a government job, being a parent and considering whether she should dip her toe back into dating.

She decided to join an online dating site. 

"I matched with a male real estate agent. To have that job and his real estate license, he would have had to have obtained a police check. I took comfort in that detail," Simone tells Mamamia.

"We hit it off initially. We went on a date, eventually got into a relationship. Then the little red flags grew over nine months."

Watch: Simone O'Brien shares her story with Mamamia. Post continues below.


Video via Supplied.
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The lies started to pile up. The perpetrator would say he was going to work, but wasn't. He was deleting contacts from Simone's phone. Then her money started to go missing. 

Initially, she assumed it was her son maybe taking money out of her purse for tuck shop at school. It turns out this was not the case. The perpetrator also changed the SIM card in Simone's phone without asking her. 

The love bombing became very intense too.

"He started sending me flowers to work. It sounds nice, but it wasn't just one bunch. It was every single day, receiving bunches of flowers. It felt like he was trying to remind everyone in my office that I was 'taken'. It actually made me feel sick," says Simone.

In September 2012, after nine months of dating, she made the decision to break up with the perpetrator.

After splitting with him, she immediately received hundreds of text messages from him, all abusive in nature. Simone, who was 36 at the time, doesn't remember any of this. Investigators had to tell her. 

She cannot remember, because hours after calling off the relationship, the perpetrator came to her house and tried to murder her. 

"He came to the door and said 'Let's talk', so I let him in, never thinking I would ever end up potentially dead. We went into my bedroom and I was honest and said something along the lines of, 'You deserve someone that can give you 110 per cent of your love. Let's stay friends.' All I remember next is looking up at him from the floor of the bedroom and the baseball bat coming down hard on my arm."

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In just ten minutes Simone was left with broken bones, her skull shattered, unconscious and fighting for her life. She had been hit viciously with the baseball bat well over 50 times, most of which were to the right side of her face.

During the early moments of the attack, Simone screamed out to two of her children, her daughters, who were home at the time. Her son wasn't home. 

"I'll never forget my daughter's eyes when she saw me. I called out something like, 'Go get mummy help.' So they both ran out of the house, called the police and banged on our neighbours' doors."

Simone's neighbours on either side of her home did something remarkably brave that night, apprehending the perpetrator until the authorities arrived. 

"I will never forget those people and what they did for me and my kids. One of my neighbours was trying to clear my wounds, rubbing towels on my head until the ambulance came. My brain was exposed. She was trying to keep me alive. I was in excruciating pain, apparently. I don't remember any of that part."

Simone post-attack. Image: Supplied.

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The physical injuries were extensive. Simone lost her eyesight on her right side, as well as her sense of smell. Her skull is held together with screws and titanium plates. 

The emotional toll is just as heavy.

The ripple effect on her children as well has been unimaginable.

"It's the children that are victims of this violence too. It's impacted their trust in men, their confidence. The attack happened the day before my middle child's birthday. On her birthday in 2012 she was at the police station answering questions, wondering if her mother was going to die. Now when her birthday comes around every year, she still has a sick feeling," says Simone.

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"My son, who is the youngest, struggled to come and see me in hospital as he was terrified seeing me. That's something he will never forget. My eldest also had so much weight and responsibility on her shoulders. None of them deserved this."

In 2014, the perpetrator was found guilty of attempted murder and sentenced to 15 years prison. 

Before the attack, Simone knew very little about domestic violence and the red flags associated with it. Now, she hopes that by telling her story, no women or children will experience what she and her kids did ever again.

The road to recovery was long for Simone. Image: Supplied.

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For nine years now, Simone has been working with RizeUp. She is a patron and does speaking events with them regularly, aiming to raise much-needed awareness. 

RizeUp is a national organisation that helps women, children and families move on after the devastation of domestic and family violence. Their mission is to deliver life-changing and practical support to these families when they need it most. The organisation was founded by the fabulous Nicolle Edwards

Currently, the team furnishes at least eight to 10 complete homes per week for victim-survivors. The team along with their brand partners source the furniture, the bedding, the kitchen appliances, the soft furnishings, the toys — all the things that make a home. They've helped thousands of women and children find a fresh start.

It's a cause deeply close to Simone's heart.

"Inspiring others or changing people's minds about domestic and family violence, especially talking with males, is so powerful. I have a lot of men come up to me after speaking events saying, 'Thank you, your story has helped me realise I need to change my behaviour.' It's so rewarding," says Simone.

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"RizeUp's Gala Fundraising Ball is also coming up and I cannot wait to attend. We need to keep conversations about violence against women and children at the forefront."

Founder Nicolle Edwards tells Mamamia about the approaching event, taking place on Saturday August 24. 

'It's imperative that we come together to address the scourge of domestic and family violence. Our second annual RizeUp Gala Ball serves as a platform to not only raise vital funds but also to amplify awareness and support for some of those most vulnerable in our society."

This year's theme of 'It Takes A Village', will gather supporters, advocates, and community leaders to raise awareness and critical funds in the battle against domestic and family violence, while acknowledging the power of community in making a change for victim-survivors.

Simone today. Image: Supplied.

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Simone's story is powerful. The way she tells it captures every single person's attention.

Ironically, and sadly, she says she has gratitude for "the amount of times that the perpetrator hit me". 

"If I had been hit less, say 10 times, I wouldn't be here today. The amount of times I was hit meant my skull was shattered, which actually gave my brain room to move and that saved my life. I feel defiant. He didn't get what he wanted."

When Simone, now 49, speaks of her ordeal with others, she says it feels cathartic. Like a heavy load is being lifted off her shoulders, just by speaking out. 

"I know that I'm not alone. Yes, I've dealt with those bad, horrible thoughts. But I've used every little bit of advice and support to keep me in a good headspace. Early on, I used to look in the mirror and think, 'How am I going to survive? I only have one eye. Am I going to be embarrassed wherever I go?' Now I've learned to love myself. Truly."

Simone says it's a whole team effort in the fact she survived. It's thanks to her kids, her neighbours, the first responders, the detectives, her medical team and her wider circle of loved ones. 

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"For people who hear my story, I always want them to know you're never alone. We must report, we need to look after our daughters, nieces, aunties, sisters, mothers and more. We have to protect them. Let's stamp out domestic and family violence for the next generation coming through."

For more from Simone O'Brien, you can visit her website here.

Mamamia is a charity partner of RizeUp Australia, a national organisation that helps women, children and families move on after the devastation of domestic and family violence. Their mission is to deliver life-changing and practical support to these families when they need it most. If you would like to support their mission you can donate here.

You can also buy tickets to RizeUp's Gala Fundraising Ball, held on Saturday August 24 at Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. 

The organisation has also launched a raffle so that Aussie's all over can become part of the action. With major prizes like a luxury holiday for two in the Maldives valued at $19,300, it's not to be missed. Tickets start from just $25 each.

If this has raised any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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