November 17, 2013
Tiffany Wilkinson of Dunedin is a 27 year old registered nurse originally from Levin. Tiffany is a mother to a four year old girl; she is also a partner, a daughter, a sister, and a friend. She is a gym bunny and she loves to read, bake and cook. She is also a “victim” of a brutal attack, has post-traumatic stress disorder, issues with anxiety, has nightmares nearly every night, and she is often afraid to go out in public. But importantly, and further to all of these things, Tiffany Wilkinson is a hero. She demonstrates the strength and courage of a mother protecting her young, the integrity and spirit of a young woman, and the wisdom and composure of someone far beyond her years. Inspirationally, Tiffany is joining the 2013 White Ribbon Campaign by using her story to tell New Zealanders that “violence is not okay, but it is okay to ask for help”.
On 9am on 19 November 2012 Tiffany was attacked by Michael John Chilcott (then 21) when he came to her door at Duncan Street in Dunedin requesting a drink of water. A true nurturer, Tiffany happily obliged, only to be stabbed in the neck repeatedly with a pair of scissors and choked while she was sexually assaulted. Tiffany’s daughter Ally was in the next room and Chilcott threatened to harm Ally if Tiffany resisted him. But Tiffany did more than resist, she managed to fight off Chilcott and appease him so she could escape to safety with Ally. Tiffany had severe life-threatening injuries which she continues to deal with today, just under a year after this horrendous attack.
“When I woke up, I thought, what just happened?” she explains. Tiffany had spent her life never considering that “something like this” could ever happen to her. Adjusting to life after the attack has been an uphill climb and “there isn’t a thing that it hasn’t impacted”, she mentions. Yet even still, Tiffany shows profound compassion for her attacker. “I feel bad for him. I think that he’s going to have to live with this for the rest of his life but I’m going to keep going. And I think that I’ve got freedom for the next five years, but he doesn’t.”
And with that freedom, Tiffany has chosen to help make a difference to the lives of others; the lives of her patients, her daughter, her friends and family and those who come into contact with her, and now the New Zealand public. Tiffany reflects on violence in New Zealand
“When I think about violence towards women, I tend to think about domestic violence and I’ve not experienced that issue, so I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like to go through something like that so many times.”
Her story, she anticipates, will help others by creating awareness not just about violence, but about survival and preventing an incident like this from ever happening again. The White Ribbon campaign fundamentally appeals to Tiffany as a forum to share her story rather than the array of press that have contacted her looking for a story. By having others hear her fight to protect Ally and to survive the ordeal, she hopes, will show others in violent situations that asking for help is okay and the violence should never be the norm.
On violence towards women particularly, Tiffany urges men to be good role models. Her partner Justin and her father are some of the role models in her life, having supported her fully before and after the incident. Tiffany’s survival is also attributed to the Judo lessons her father would take her to when she was young.
“I think men are role models, and they need to show children how they need to behave. The biggest thing a father can do for his kids is to respect his partner and his wife. And to show love towards to her and show kids the love and how to behave.”
This, she believes, will shape loving and respectful men and in turn reduce the escalating amount of violence towards women. She believes that owning that violence too is a “huge step” for men. The 2013 White Ribbon Pledge, “I promise to never commit, condone or stay silent about violence towards women”, is close to her heart as Chilcott pleaded guilty to lesser charges than those originally laid against him. Admission and ownership of violence, she explains, would be monumental for men and for New Zealand.
Tiffany’s survival would not be possible without her family; her partner “the most amazing man”; Ally, her “reason for getting up in the morning”; her ACC Case Manager; the woman that took Ally and herself to the hospital after the attack and her understanding colleagues. She reminds us how important support networks are in life. She reminds us to grab life by the reins, and do the things you enjoy and care about. She reminds us that heroes emerge from the most terrifying situations, to ask for help and to say no to violence.
If you or anyone you know requires support regarding violence towards women, click here for more information or the police.
Show Tiffany your support by leaving a message for her: www.tiffanyismyhero.com