clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Danielle Nickerson is working to raise awareness of domestic violence

New, comments

Danielle Nickerson describes the process involved in telling her story of domestic violence, and how having a support system was instrumental for her.

Danielle Nickerson Danielle Nickerson/Instagram

Following Danielle Nickerson’s video interview with MMA Junkie’s Simon Samano, where she accused her ex-husband and UFC fighter Mike Perry of domestic violence, Nickerson decided she wanted to help spread awareness about domestic violence.

In an interview with Bloody Elbow, Nickerson discussed the aftermath of revealing her story. She also revealed how important a support system was for her and how she plans to help women in the future who may be facing the same horrors she said she experienced with intimate-partner violence.

Nickerson agreed that the process of sharing traumatic experiences is never easy. When detailing the reasons she opted for a video interview with MMA Junkie, despite how uncomfortable or painful that might be, she said she wanted to make sure that there was no room for the public to misunderstand her story.

“The process was very tough,” Nickerson shared. “The first biggest step was deciding that I wanted to tell my story. Once I got my mind set on helping others I knew that no matter what bumps in the road I hit, I had to keep going. I knew from the start that it had to be a video and not just an article. This is too personal of an issue to just write down. People wouldn’t be able to see my face and look into my eyes and see what I went through. A lot of things can be misinterpreted in text and people have a long time to think of their response and formulate an answer where in a video you are on the spot.

Getting all the evidence was also very long and tedious process as well. It took months and months but ultimately we decided it was worth it to have the clarity and proof for others to hear. All around it was not an easy process but I knew that if it could save one girl from domestic violence then it was all worth it.”

Public figures who share their stories of abuse naturally face a lot more commentary on their trauma than non-celebrities, which makes the experience different for them especially if the public response is negative. One way victims process their trauma is controlling their story. For some that means never sharing it, for others that could mean the opposite.

“Overall, since the video of me explaining what happened came out I would say the response was 95 percent positive and only five-percent negative,” Nickerson explained. “Prior to that, when I just posted the photo saying I was ready to speak out about it I would have said the exact opposite response, 95 percent negative and only five-percent positive.

I’m not totally sure why that is, but my guess would be that after people watched me talk about it and saw my face as I explained what happened they could see that I was sincere and telling the truth. Sometimes it’s hard to understand or feel what someone is going through when you are only reading words that are written on a page.”

Upon initially sharing her story, even though she explicitly clarified that she is not seeking retributive justice, Nickerson still found that some observers are having misconceptions about why she shared her experience.

“Of course the haters have their misconceptions and there are too many to even know where to start. One of the biggest things I tried to get across when I came out with the story was that I had no intention of hurting anyone but only to spread awareness and use my platform for other people’s benefit.

I knew the story wouldn’t get anyone fired or thrown in jail and I’m glad, because that was never my intention. I strive to only bring positivity into the world and sometimes by sharing what happened during negative times it can help others find their way to positivity and better things.”

Having a support system is critical for survivors of abuse. Victims are often reluctant to share their stories over fears of misinterpretation, backlash and the feeling of being vulnerable. Additionally, those who speak out risk feelings of embarrassment, guilt and shame. Nickerson said she was lucky to have a network of supportive people surrounding her throughout this process.

“I have had an overwhelming amount of support,” she said of her friends and family after she went public with her story. “When you first realize that everyone will soon know what happened to you, you get this cold flush of shame through your body. It’s almost as if you’ve somehow let them down for allowing it to happen to you. You’re embarrassed, disgusted, shameful, and so many other emotions. But the thing you sometimes forget in the mix up of all the negativity is that those people closest to you love you. True love doesn’t judge or discriminate because of what you went through.

My best friend Emily arranged this amazing night for me after everything came out. She got letters from all my closest friends and printed them out and I just sat there reading them and cried happy tears through every single one. Some friends that couldn’t be there sent in champagne and treats to celebrate my freedom and bravery. It was honestly the most loved and amazing feeling I think I’ve ever felt in my life.

Your support system is key! Now this may sound funny, because when it’s happening you don’t want to tell anyone. You don’t want to talk about it. You don’t want to think about it. You want to pretend like it never happened. But the fact that you know that you have friends and family around you that will help you no matter what makes all the difference. You know that if a time comes and you need to call on them, they will be there for you. That is the biggest relief when shit starts to hit the fan. When you’re trying to get out and you know that when you call that friend, or text that family member, they will drop everything and do anything to help you.”

For others who want to come forward and share their own experience with abuse, Nickerson has this advice:

“Make sure you’re mentally ready. Even if you don’t have a bunch of followers or haters from the internet there will still be people who question you. There will be people who don’t believe you, and people who just don’t care. You should be mentally ready enough to handle harsh criticism.”

Presently Nickerson is dedicated to being an advocate for women. She said she wants to support women, particularly those who have experienced domestic abuse, through an empowerment-based approach. In pursuit of these efforts she has created the private Instagram account @treated.like.a.princess as a platform to foster and nurture self-esteem.

“I have already started a women’s empowerment page for girls going through all of life’s challenges and given them a safe space to speak about it and connect with others. I have already spoken to so many girls that went through similar situations and helped them either cope with all the aftermath of emotions, or plan on how to get out and start over if they are still going through it. I would love to one day hold a charity event for Domestic Violence victims.”

Nickerson also shared some important advice for people who have not experienced domestic violence themselves, but need to navigate supporting others who have.

“For those of you who are not affected personally by domestic violence but many know of someone who is. Make sure to be that rock for her like I described before. Make sure you know that if they ask for help it is serious. Remind them constantly how amazing they are, because I can almost guarantee they aren’t hearing it at home. They are constantly being broken down mentally and emotionally. That reinforcement means a lot and can make a huge difference. And always remember that you really never know what anyone is going through. Be kind to everyone because we are all fighting our own internal battles.”

With domestic violence reportedly on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization gives following advice for responding to someone who told you about the abuse they have suffered:

Listen closely, with empathy and no judgement.

Inquire about women’s needs and concerns.

Validate women’s experiences. Show you believe and understand.

Enhance their safety.

Support women to connect with additional services.


The Domestic Shelters Organization provides an extensive list of readings and support for those facing domestic violence around the world.

The CheckPoint resource provides readings and support for Mental Health around the world.

Australia

13 11 14 - Lifeline Australia

1800 55 1800 - Kids Helpline

13 52 47 - Samaritans

Canada

1-833-456-4566 (Toll free) - Crisis Services Canada

1-866-277-3553 (Quebec) - Crisis Services Canada

902-429-8167 - Mental Health Mobile Crisis

819-339-3356 - Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention

USA

1-800-273-TALK (8255) - HopeLine

United Kingdom

116 123 - Samaritans

0800 068 4141 - HopeLine UK

New Zealand

09 5222 999 - Auckland

0800 543 354 (Rest of NZ)