Ready to Shine
Simonne Butler made headlines in 2003 for something that rocked the nation – her drug-crazed boyfriend Antoine Dixon cut off her hands with a samurai sword.
We talked to Simonne about her journey to physical and spiritual healing, what it was and her advice for young women who might find themselves in an abusive relationship
You had been with Antoine for years when you met him. What was he like when you first met, and how did things change over time?
I was 22 when I met him. He insinuated into my life and was charming, funny and affectionate. I tried to resist him for many months, but he was persistent and wore me down. He'd had a hard life and made me feel sorry for him. I fell in love and thought all he needed was love and compassion and with that he could change.
The control started very subtly and I didn't notice it. Things like wanting to know where I was and who I was with. He started putting time restrictions on me and yelling me about who I could and couldn't hang out with. There was verbal abuse, but then he'd be so loving and caring so I let it slide.
After two years or so he beat me badly. I'd said I wanted to break up and he wasn't having it. After he was so sorry and promised not to do it again. He blamed his childhood and that he was scared of losing me. I believed him and forgave him. He was violent to me again and again and always promised he'd never do it again.
I was so ashamed I never told anyone or asked for help. I still loved him and believed his lies and felt sorry for him.
He started taking methamphetamine and got increasingly violent and paranoid. One day he tried to chop my head off with a samurai sword and I put my arms up to defend myself and protect my head. He continued to attack me until my hands got chopped off.
Sometimes young women may be too scared to tell anyone they’re being abused, can you tell us how you were feeling about reaching out for help and what might have influenced this?
Looking back at my life, it there was violence in the home and no one ever called the Police about it. It was drummed into you were not allowed to call them for help. I don't know what could have helped back then, maybe education that family violence is not OK - but in my family it was normal. I think if my mum hadn't been so scared and scarred from her violent upbringing and had called the cops when she was abused, things may have been different.
You talk in your book, Double Edged Sword, about how your friends came together to support you after the attack to help you heal. How did they help you?
I had so many amazing friends that helped me after the attack. They did everything from taking me to live with them to feeding me and washing me. They offered unconditional love and support and were non-judgmental, most of the time. Really they were just there for me when I needed them and they taught me it's ok to ask for help. One friend introduced me to my first shaman healer and that's when the real non-physical healing started.
I learned that when it comes to healing attitude is everything.
I learned we have to take full responsibility for our choices and that if we are denying parts of us we can't heal properly. I learned to have boundaries, and that I was good enough just by being the real authentic me. I learned that that I have unlimited power inside me I can call on it whenever I need it.
What would you tell girls who might find themselves in a relationship with someone who starts to feel controlling or treating them in a way that’s making them feel uncomfortable or a bit abusive?
I would tell young girls to watch out for little boundaries being eroded. Pay attention to if he tells you what to do and who to see or what to wear. These are signs of an abuser.
I would tell them that if their boyfriend tries to make them do something they are not comfortable with and keeps nagging about it and trying to change their mind and coerce them this is a sign of abuse.
Most of all I would tell them to tell someone they trust if anyone is making them uncomfortable, scared, or feel worthless. To look out for signs like being super nice then super mean, or being mean then saying it was only a joke.
I would tell them not to suffer in silence and tell their mum, dad, teacher, sister, best friend, anyone they trust.
I would tell them that they matter and so do their feelings and that they are stronger than they think they are.
Continue to follow Simonne's Journey:
If you are feel that your relationship is heading towards being abusive or someone is hurting you, you are never alone, and there are people who will help you:
- Women's Refuge: Free national crisis line operates 24/7 - 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843
- Shine: Free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633
- It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450
- Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and Middle Eastern women and their children. Crisis line 24/7 0800 742 584
- Ministry of Justice
- National Network of Stopping Violence