From stabbing to #Startup

The trial was cancelled and no one came back for me. That piece of shit changed my life for the worse, but Mi Vista changed it for the better, proving together we can make a difference.

Life for me changed on the 6th April 2006. I had been working as a security guard in South Australia for a company that held a large number of security contracts for a popular hotel chain. After nearly 3 years I had worked my way up to the position of Supervisor. The job was interesting, to say the least. Dealing with hostile clientele, drunken patrons and people affected by drugs was a daily occurrence. Anyone in this field of work will tell you it is not easy. In my time as a security guard I was faced with fights, bashings, gang fights, sexual assaults, theft, drug dealing, as well as incidents that involved knives, clubs, broken bottles, axes, garden stakes, needles, guns, bricks and any other object that could be used as a weapon at the time.

Despite all the ugliness of this line of work I was surrounded by great friends; not just at work but also outside of work. I took pride in knowing I was well respected for the way in which I communicated with others and defused conflicts. I can easily say that at the time I was happy with my life — happy with my job, happy with the people I worked with, happy with the friends that I had around me. Overall, I was in a good place. On that Thursday night though things changed, and I experienced something that I would not wish upon anyone. I was stabbed.

Beforehand it had been an easy day. I was soon to finish working my shift at a hotel that I saw as one of the easiest; a hotel where the patron’s never messed about, and a hotel that was rather quiet most of the time — a hotel without many issues at all. I was on my dinner break when I noticed a male walk into the premises. I don’t know what it was but at the time I thought there was something about him, even though there was no obvious reason for concern. You know how you just get that feeling sometimes?

About 30 minutes passed without incident. It seemed my Spidey senses were a little off that day, and it was going to be just another quiet shift after all. Boy was I wrong. I soon received a report from a patron that the person I had seen earlier was now in the male toilets doing drugs. As I approached the toilets he opened the door and calmly walked out, stating that he was leaving. I thanked him, but decided to walk alongside him as he left just to make sure. As we walked through the hotel at no time did he become aggressive, make threats or give me any indication that he would cause any problems. When we got to the exit he was even kind enough to open the door. What I didn’t expect though was a knife to come swinging back with his other hand, plunging into my stomach as he walked away.

You hear stories about people who say they didn’t know what was going on at first as they fell, or what not. Well I knew without a doubt that I had been stabbed. It didn’t hurt at first; it just felt like I had been punched. I clutched my stomach, then lifted my hand to see it dripping with my own blood. All the while this man casually exited the hotel, like it was just another day for the drug addict.

I was rushed to hospital where the doctors found that the weapon had entered over 20cm inside of me, cutting through my intestines, forcing me to undergo major surgery. Eventually I woke up in my hospital bed to find I was left with a stab wound puncture as well as 46 staples holding my stomach together. The surgeons had to cut me from the bottom of my breast plate to over 10cm below my belly button. Over the following 6 to 8 months I would undergo a further two operations to try and correct the damage done by this random individual. He changed my life forever, and I knew he didn’t give a damn about the repercussions.

A police investigation turned up nothing. There was no CCTV footage of the man, despite cameras being installed inside and outside of the hotel, and there were no witnesses to the crime. The police had no leads, until a member of the public reported they had been told by the offender himself, bragging about stabbing me. I was this man’s bit of gossip as I lay on the operating table. I worked hard, always did the right thing, and somehow society produced this piece of shit to repay me. I can’t thank the person who reported this man enough. I was able to identify him immediately in a photograph line up, and he was charged awaiting trial. As ecstatic as I was, I would never see the inside of a court room, however.

I was asked to write a victim impact statement and to appear in court for a 3 day trial. When I arrived on the first day of the trial I was asked to sit outside and wait patiently. I didn’t mind the wait, justice was finally being served after all. But as the day drew on, and I was still outside, I knew something was up. Eventually an official from the court approached me and the detective who had been working on my case. We were then informed that the offender was deemed not fit to face court after insisting on introducing himself as Queen Elizabeth to the Magistrate, so the trial would not be taking place. The court official and the detective left to have a chat, and I sat for another hour alone. I waited and waited. I gave the detective a call on his mobile phone and he quickly apologized, saying he had left and was already on the other side of the city. No one came back for me. In the weeks leading up to the trial everyone had told me, assured me, that this day would be the day I could shut the door on this bastard and move on with my life, but it wasn’t really playing out that way. To be honest, things kinda stopped working the way they should after that knife ripped me apart.

Beyond the ambulance sirens and the spectacle of trials, it is easy for the fall out of traumatic incidents like this to go unnoticed. Wounds heal over time but scars are left, affecting the person emotionally and physically for the rest of their life. Worse, as the crisis unfolds a domino effect begins, swallowing up everything and everyone the person is close to. I was unable to work, placing financial strain on me and my family. Many victims can end up losing their homes as a result, while their offender can still comfortably afford their latest hit of meth. Depression and/or anxiety can set in; a person may become too afraid to leave the house or even be anywhere in public. Relationships can become strained, whether it be with partners, friends or even with children. It still hurts remembering that my own daughter was too scared to give me a simple hug for nearly 3 months because she thought it might hurt me. It probably would have, but I so desperately wanted it. In hindsight it was just one more thing my attacker took away from me, without a care in the world. It is easy for me to see now how, statistically, few relationships can last such an event. A victim can easily lose sight of reality and/or lose touch with the outside world. I know I did for a long time. Too long, even.

This whole event has been tiring, frustrating, upsetting and more. Over the years I have had to relive the incident, undergo multiple surgeries and live every day with nightmares and anxiety. No matter what I do this is an incident that never seems to fade away, to the point that nearly ten years on, I am writing this from another hospital bed after undergoing even more surgery. I moved states, changed careers and made new friends, all whilst shutting out the past in an attempt to move forward and free myself from all the memories of what happened that day. Sadly it is not that easy. This time around very few people, including my close family and friends, even knew I was going back into hospital, simply to avoid the questions and them worrying. Just before surgery I could see the fear in my daughter’s eyes as she was traumatised by this all over again. All too often the victim of the attack is the focus of sympathy and support, but as I have learnt the impact is much wider and effects many people, including those doing the supporting, and even those you thought it wouldn’t.

I want to help change things out there, and hopefully prevent another person ever having to endure what I have had to go through. So many days I sat resting, thinking of all kinds of ideas that I thought could make our community safer. It became an obsession, and my way of dealing with the incident that has haunted me for far too long. Since I was stuck at home a lot of the time I mostly communicated with friends and family via my smartphone, responding to message after message from them asking how I was doing, how I was coping etc. Their unwavering support for me, even when they couldn’t be there in person, was what eventually made me realise our community wasn’t so bad after all. Obviously there are a couple of crazies out there, but as a whole we are a pretty good bunch. This turnaround of thinking and my ever increasing dependence on my smartphone sparked an idea that would, like 6th April 2006, change my life forever, again.

The combination of community and the power of the always connected smartphone provides us with an amazing opportunity to ‘feel safer in numbers’ even when we are alone. If something was to happen, our phone can be the voice when we can no longer talk, communicating rich and invaluable data on our behalf that could lead to rescue and quicker prosecution. The technology was ready, and we were already accustomed to reaching out to friends and family in times of uncertainty. If sling shotting birds at pigs in Angry Birds had become an almost natural pass time on a smartphone, why couldn’t pressing a button to activate a safety mode in moments of unease be just as instinctive?

I Googled for hours and searched the app stores of every major smartphone platform to see what others had done in this space. A part of me was hoping it had already been done so I could immediately use it myself, but the offerings were in fact limited, fragmented and some seemed like they would be more of a hindrance in a crisis than a saviour. No one had created an all-round solution that harnessed every piece of the modern day smartphone to enhance your safety.

It is because of this I decided to create my own personal safety app, Mi Vista — ready and fully capable when you need it, and never intrusive when you don’t. I know I can’t save the world with an app, but even if I could help one person, that counts for something. My background in security allowed me to draw up plans for how a smartphone could help in every scenario, and at all times I made sure I was creating something that I would actually use. One thing I quickly realised was that the safety of the device was in just as much danger as the victim, so data would have to be transmitted to trusted contacts in real time in case of emergency. So even if the offender stole or destroyed the device, Mum and Dad would know where I was, and have access to rich data about what happened in those moments. Plan after plan, brainstorm after brainstorm, I had the foundation of Mi Vista laid out. I made it my mission to get this built, quickly contracting a developer and putting together a team of seven people that were equally as passionate about the idea as I was. Marketing, IT, Law, Finance…each team member has their skills, but what was more important for me in finding them was that we all shared the same values and drive to make our community safer.

Mi Vista was born as an app, and is nurtured by the team and community who use it. Not only are we safer in numbers, but we believe that our users share in the development of Mi Vista, with all feedback considered in developing future updates. I have been overwhelmed by the stories of our users from around the world, and the attention of the local press in recent months. Nothing gives me greater satisfaction than knowing we are making a difference together, whether it be piece of mind for our users or real outcomes in cases following the use of our app in emergencies. I still have nightmares about that day at the hotel back in 2006, but today my life is better, and the drive to prevent things like this happening to others is stronger than ever. I wholeheartedly believe Mi Vista is the future for connected safety, and the team and I can’t wait to share our exciting new developments with our community in the future.

Shannon Cloy
mivista.com.au

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