‘I’d love nothing more than to see this face every day,’ he said, kissing me.
Every week, I did fire spinning at the local town hall and I also worked at a supermarket.
On New Year’s Eve 2017, when Matthew and I had been together for four months, I got home from a shift just before midnight.
Suddenly, Matthew snatched my phone out of my hand.
‘Who have you been with?’ he screamed, scanning my texts.
‘I was at work,’ I yelled. ‘What’s wrong?’
‘You didn’t answer your phone,’ he sneered.
Before I could say anything, Matthew punched me in my face. The next day, I had a black eye. He apologised but after that, he was like a different person.
He accused me of cheating and if I came home later than promised, he’d shove or hit me. I had no idea what had happened to the man I loved.
Then, when we’d been together a year, Matthew threatened to stab me with one of his swords and I realised I’d had enough.
Terrified, I slept outside in my car that night.
As I walked into the house the next day, there was smashed glass everywhere.
‘Good morning, honey,’ Matthew smiled, as he casually fried bacon.
Suddenly, Matthew grabbed a kitchen knife.
As he edged towards me, I sprinted out the door.
‘Help!’ I screamed.
But outside, I tripped and fell to the ground.
Just then, Matthew towered over me holding the can of kerosene that
I used for fire spinning.
‘You burned me, so I’m going to burn you,’ he sneered, then emptied the can onto my head and body.
‘No!’ I screamed, drenched in fuel.
The next thing I knew, he’d ignited my blowtorch and lit me on fire.
The pain was agonising as flames engulfed me.
I’m going to die, I thought.
Then I remembered what we were taught in school.
Stop, drop and roll.
I frantically rolled around on the grass as my skin melted everywhere.
While I screamed hysterically, Matthew kicked my head and my stomach.
‘Let’s put you out!’ he laughed, chillingly.
Moments later, I heard police and fire sirens.
Then, a firefighter sprayed me, extinguishing the blaze.
When I next opened my eyes, I was in hospital.
‘You’ve been in a coma, Danyeil,’ a doctor told me.
It was weird, but there were birthday balloons all around the room.
My birthday isn’t for months, I thought.
‘It’s been five months,’ the doctor added.
Bursting into tears, I tried to speak but no sound came out as there was a tube in my throat.
I found out I had second and third-degree burns to 80 per cent of my body.
Later that day, police officers visited me.
‘Matthew fled and was on the run for three days,’ the officer explained.
He’d been in jail ever since he was caught.
‘We were preparing for a murder trial,’ she said. ‘We thought you’d die.’
After that, my family visited every day.
I’d already had 15 skin grafts while I’d been in the coma. Docs had used skin from the bottom of my legs and when that ran out, they were forced to use pig skin.
After a few weeks, I finally saw myself in the mirror. Thankfully, my face was unharmed. But the rest of my body was completely burnt to a crisp.
I looked like a monster.
Over the next year, I had to learn to talk, eat, write and move again.
Finally, I was discharged from hospital.
In court, Matthew Gerth, 34, pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury. And in September 2019, he was sentenced to life in prison.
I cried in the public gallery. I was so proud of myself for getting justice.
Now, I have severe nerve damage, kidney failure, heart failure and will be on medication for the rest of my life.
I hope that I’ll find love again one day. But every day is a struggle.
My burns are visible everywhere.
I still cannot believe the man I loved did this to me.
But at least I am alive.
For help, call 1800 RESPECTvisit