By Joanne McCarthy
Jan. 12, 2016,
FOR a shocking few minutes last September the former girlfriend of professional boxer Kyron Dryden believed she was going to join Australia’s most horrifying list – the one woman a week to die at the hands of a partner or former partner.
“I’ve watched him train. I’ve watched him fight. I knew what he was capable of,” said Tori-Lee Hillery, 21, of the night Dryden, 22, grabbed her by the throat and slammed her into a mirror, “choke-slammed” her to the floor, and called her a “stupid slut” on a film of the incident he later posted on social media.
“I thought, I’m going to die,” Ms Hillery said of the terror she felt that September day, after Dryden was found guilty on Monday of assault causing actual bodily harm, and pleaded guilty to breaching apprehended violence orders four times that required him not to make contact with her.
She agreed to speak, backed by Victims of Crime Assistance League (VOCAL) chief executive Robyn Cotterell-Jones, after months of being vilified on social media after Dryden was charged, culminating in an ugly outpouring of commentary after his conviction.
It included that she was a “lying c…”, a “witch”, a “f…ing bitch”, a “stupid bitch”, a “slut”, that Dryden had yet to tell “the full story” and Ms Hillery deserved being assaulted nearly two months after her relationship with Dryden ended.
The commentary included Dryden saying he was “unfazed and carefree about the situation” because he had “bigger things on my mind”.
Ms Hillery said the social media response was “worse than the assault in some ways”.
“If I’d seen this happen to another girl I don’t know if I would have reported it, but if no-one says anything this will never stop.
“I would say to these people who’ve written these things, never, ever, ever shame a victim as you have no idea how deeply it affects their lives already.
“Domestic violence victims don’t want your sympathy, and they definitely don’t want your opinion either.”
Ms Cotterell-Jones said the social media commentary had reached “new lows in savaging the victim”, and was “like a cancer” that would silence other victims.
“The magistrate found one party to be honest, the other not,” she said.
“People have to recognise that when anyone, hero or not, commits a crime and is found guilty on the evidence in a court of law, blaming the victim will silence others from trying to be safe.”
Ms Hillery said she “never ever thought” Dryden would physically assault her. In text messages sent by Dryden to her after their relationship ended in July last year, he repeatedly demanded to see her, including one in which he said “Your (sic) seeing me I wanna see you, that’s it, I steal you if I gotta”.
After he was charged Dryden repeatedly breached apprehended violence orders requiring him not to contact Ms Hillery.
The NSW Government’s Combat Sports Authority, which is responsible for licensing and monitoring boxing and has a “fit and proper person” test as part of its registration that lists serious assault as a relevant consideration, said it was aware of the Dryden conviction.
The authority can take disciplinary action which “may affect the status” of a boxer’s registration.
Dryden, who won an International Boxing Organisation (IBO) world youth title in November, could also face action from the IBO, its Asia Pacific vice president Steve Scott said.
The IBO board will consider the case after Dryden is sentenced, with the possibility that Dryden could be stripped of the title if a custodial sentence was given, Mr Scott said.
“We await the sentencing to be completed and we hope that justice is done for all in this case,” he said.
Ms Hillery said she hoped that by speaking to police and giving evidence in the trial she gave other women the courage to speak. She called on people to support women when they report domestic violence. She called on people to think before they posted commentary on social media.
“After he was charged people were saying on social media that the truth would come out in the court. We’ve been to court and the truth’s come out,” she said.