SARASOTA (FOX 13) - Five years after a hair dresser in Sarasota was repeatedly stabbed by her boyfriend, she has turned the story that changed her life into one that will hopefully change others' for the better.
Rhonda Calahan's wounds have healed, the experience is one she will never forget. And she's telling her story in hopes of saving other women from the same fate, or worse.
Today, Calahan always seems to have a smile on her face. Behind that smile are the memories of three and a half years with an abusive man.
"He would tell me if he had to leave that he would kill me. If my family saw me, they wouldn't recognize me after what he would do to me," she recalled. "I didn't think he would take it that far, but he meant what he said."
In 2012, she almost lost her life when she told him she wanted out. In an 8-minute video, Calahan describes what happened next.
"He slapped me and flipped this chair upside down," she says during her video. "He got a long knife with a round edge and that's when he started to cut my neck."
Rhonda was stabbed 30 times, but she refused to let him kill her.
"I didn't want my kids to come home that day and find me dead on the floor, so I just fought for my kids and my mom. Because I wanted to be them for them," she said.
The video is her way of sharing her story with as many people as possible, and it's working. Her video has spread on Facebook, with more than 50,000 views. Rhonda wants women to know there is a way out.
"I wanted to share my story about letting them know about being strong. You have to be strong to get through those types of situations," she said.
Rhonda said the abuse cycle starts with verbal attacks, then becomes physical. She said women often think they're alone, but she is someone they can turn to, and they often do.
"I try to answer each and everyone of them back to see how I can help them, and encourage them," she said.
Rhonda also volunteers with Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center (SPARCC) in Sarasota. She works with survivors who've been through similar situations.
Five years ago, Rhonda would have never believed her life would turn out as it has. Her scars are fading, she's full of life and she's making a difference in the lives of others.
"I want to be there for those women," she explained. "And let them know they can make it too."
To view Rhonda's video, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6s6wCHQGThM
*Warning: Some may find the contents of this video, including crime scene photos, disturbing.