Melissa Dohme’s story is nothing short of incredible. As a domestic abuse survivor, she almost lost her life when her ex-boyfriend, Robert Burton, tried to kill her.
Robert had long given her a reason to live in fear– he always said he would kill her if she tried to leave. Not even did she survive against all odds, she also found love after a terrifying nightmare.
“Here I am. I’m beautiful and you didn’t win.”
Her ex-boyfriend couldn’t handle a breakup
Melissa was a nursing student with her whole life ahead of her when the terrible attack happened. She had broken up with her, boyfriend Robert Burton, a few months before, and he refused to stop calling and texting her begging her to see her.
“It just seemed kind of pathetic and I really just wanted to get it over with so I can go back to sleep. So I reluctantly agreed,” she told the Daily Mail.
When she finally agreed to see him, he said he just wanted a hug. But when she hugged him, she heard the click of a switchblade. He then went on to stab her 32 times with two different knives before leaving her in the street, bleeding to death.
When police and paramedics found her, Melissa was in a critical condition. But that didn’t stop her from telling them who her attacker was.
Melissa was airlifted to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, Fla, while the police was on the lookout for Robert Burton.
Trauma surgeons worked on Melissa for five hours before she was finally stabilized, and while she was still in surgery, police found Robert Burton, where he had crashed his car into a building and ingested a number of sleeping pills in a suicide attempt.
Melissa suffered multiple injuries
After a week in ICU, Melissa woke up with a broken jaw, shattered facial bones, and severed nerves. She also suffered a stroke from blood loss that resulted in partial paralysis.
Since then, she’s had multiple surgeries, scar revision, dental implants and facial procedures. She even had to learn how to talk, walk, write, eat and close her eyes again. And she did all of it.
But she decided to take control of her life again, refusing to let the trauma dictate her future. Not only did she graduate on time, she was also the commencement speaker. Melissa told the audience, “When the entire world seems to be against you telling you can’t do it…listen to the voice inside you that whispers, ‘yes I can.’”
She was strong enough to face her attacker in court
She then faced her attacker in court and re-lived her attack, and then her attacker surprised everyone by pleading guilty.
“The last time I saw him [Burton] was when he was walking away with the knife in his hand and I was lying in the road lifeless and no one else was around,” Melissa said.
Robert Burton was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Melissa surprised the world when she said she forgave the man who almost robbed her of her life.
When you choose to forgive those who hurt you, you forever take away their power and that’s what I’m doing today. Robert, I forgive you for coming to my house and attempting to murder me.
Enter the paramedic who saved her life
When Cameron Hill arrived at the scene of the crime, he was not prepared for the most traumatizing sight in his 17-year career as a paramedic.
However, despite the fact that he couldn’t see her face properly because of all the injuries and that he didn’t even know her name, Cameron had a strange feeling. He knew he would see Melissa again.
I don’t know why, but I knew I’d see her again. I believed she would live.Cameron Hill in Tampa Bay Times
Melissa went to Europe on a girls trip after her recovery, and upon her return, she decided to reach out to every person who had helped her along her healing journey.
However, she had reached out to just about everyone except the firefighter-paramedics at the Clearwater station who had responded on that fateful night.
But as fate would have it, 10 months after the tragedy, two of her first responders surprised her during a speech she gave at the Clearwater church– and one of them was Cameron.
They hugged and cried and exchanged phone numbers.
I was weirdly giddy. I had this feeling about him.
Melissa didn’t think she was ready to love again
Melissa and Cameron first met for dinner but as an excuse to see him again, she personally took him a thank you card after that. They ended up talking for 5 hours and she felt all the symptoms of a crush.
It took her by surprise, considering what she had lived through. She didn’t think she was ready to love again.
I didn’t think it was possible. I didn’t even want to like anyone.Melissa Dhome
“I didn’t even want to open my heart up to anything,”Melissa, told PEOPLE. “I was afraid, but then I met Cameron.”
Watch this Goalcast video on how to move past even the most difficult traumas:
But did Cameron like her back?
For Cameron, it was a first. He had never met someone whose life he had helped save and he didn’t know how to navigate the situation now that he was falling in love.
I couldn’t ignore the feelings. It was a confusing time.
So he drove away to a cabin, hoping to clear his head and make sense of his feelings. But all he could think about was Melissa.
When he returned, he attended Melissa’s graduation speech and was mesmerized by her strength. “Her strength was unbelievable,” Cameron told PEOPLE. “That was the first thing I fell in love with.”So he asked her out.
It’s been so long since I’ve liked someone,” Cameron told Melissa. “I don’t know if I remember how to kiss a girl.”
“Well,” Melissa replied, “maybe you should try.”
Cameron was “The One”
After their first official date, Melissa and Cameron spent every day together. He stood by her side as she went through the painful trial and testified against her ex.
When I look back on that night, I can’t think of it as all bad anymore because I met Cameron. He’s the one I’ve been waiting for. My fairy tale.Melissa Dhome to Tampa Bay Times
Cameron proposed to her a couple years later. “It just probably was the best moment of my whole life, the happiest moment of my whole life,” Melissa said.
She will never be silent again
Melissa has also dedicated her time to advocating for victims of domestic abuse. Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence is only one example of the initiatives she has supported. She refuses to be silenced again.
I have taken on the duty, as a survivor whose abuser is serving life in prison, that miracles have happened. That this is my mission.
If you, or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse, know that there are always resources available to you. Here are some resources:
The National Domestic Violence Hotline
National Dating Abuse Helpline
National Child Abuse Hotline/Childhelp
National Sexual Assault Hotline
Your trauma doesn’t have to keep you from happiness
“Life and love after abuse is possible,” Melissa wants the world to know. Her incredible story is proof that trauma and tragedy don’t have to define your future. While not everyone deals with trauma the same way, it’s important to be gentle with your healing and believe that it is possible to overcome it.
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