I’m Damien Rider and this is my story.
I wasn’t aware just how much my child abuse had affected 34 years of my life so much until I was into my adulthood. I like many others thought the feelings, triggers, and cycles would fade away through time. They didn’t, in fact, they became more prevalent the older I became as more responsibilities were placed on me through life. There were weeks and months I thought it had gone but then a trigger would spiral me down to the depths of depression and suicidal thoughts. I tried so many ways to find true happiness through relationships, travel, business, sports and professional help but nothing lasted. I had started to develop tools to help me through tough times and to keep me focused on a goal.
In 2014 I tried to commit suicide for the 4th time and luckily didn’t succeed but what it did this time was give to the strength to decide to really make a change in my life and take a stand on the person I knew was hiding inside. I set myself what was thought to be an impossible challenge, of paddling by hand 800km in open ocean, solo and unassisted from Gold Coast to Bondi, Sydney. On Jan 3rd, 2015 I set off from my local beach to take on the impossible and Paddle Against Child Abuse. This is how PACA was formed. The 17-day journey changed and saved my life. For the next 3 years, I continued to do what I was constantly being told were impossible challenges but I was taking them on positive and succeeding. These challenges gave me time to process how I had got through the paddle and other tough times in life to be able to keep moving forward. To work out why I was able to keep going when many hadn’t or were to afraid to try. Along the way I was fortunate enough to work at some of the most amazing retreats around the world and share my findings and tools with others facing adversity. From there I knew it was time I opened my own retreat where people knew where I was and could go through the program I designed, to allow people to feel they can now live life on their terms and be proud of who they are. Oceans Retreat is a special place built with love, heart, and dedication. I’ve done the hard work so others don’t have to. We will be able to save 576 people a year directly and millions indirectly through our programs, events, and films.
From my dedication I have become a spokesperson for survivors, speaking and on the panel at the Royal Commission on Sexual Child Abuse and the 2018 Safe Children Toolkit launch. These are 2 of the most historical moments on the prevention of child abuse in Australian history. I was then chosen to represent the people of Australia as the final baton bearer for the commonwealth games before it reached the stadium. A very honored and proud moment not only for myself but the 1 in 5 affected by child abuse.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story and thank you for supporting the Rider Foundation.