1. News

Domestic violence can happen to anyone, victim tells Clearwater students

Melissa Dohme was stabbed in the face, head and neck by her ex-boyfriend on Jan. 24 near Crest Lake Park in Clearwater.
Published Nov. 2, 2012

CLEARWATER — The young woman who survived 32 stab wounds, a stroke, a slashed voice box and a broken heart kept repeating the same four words: I'm just like you.

Before a crowd of Countryside High School students early Thursday, Melissa Dohme, 20, described the night police say her high school sweetheart, the love of her life, tried to kill her.

I'm just like you.

Before he was accused by police of knifing her hands, head and throat Jan. 24 near Clearwater's Crest Lake Park, before he was charged with attempted first-degree murder, Robert Lee Burton Jr. kissed Melissa by her locker, took her to prom, sent her wake-up texts: "Good morning, beautiful."

I'm just like you.

Some students in the Media Center Thursday began to cry. Everyone was silent.

Anna Savchuk, 16, thought of her cousin and inwardly gave thanks. The cousin dated a controlling guy, once — a guy who slapped and punched her. After pleading from friends and family, she ended it two months ago.

Sure, Anna had been worried. But she never considered the relationship truly life-threatening. She didn't think someone so young, bright and well-off could be a victim of domestic violence.

But there, behind the podium, was Melissa: smart, beautiful, "Student of the Year" at St. Petersburg College. Melissa, with a penchant for white, lacy dresses and a dream to become a nurse.

Melissa, with 32 stab wounds.

I'm just like you.

A few rows behind Anna, Kim Florio, a Countryside drama teacher, watched her students in awe. They were so quiet, transfixed by Melissa's story.

Was this the same bunch who chucked pencils at each other? Linked arms and cackled down the hallways?

How tremendously important, Florio thought. Sometimes, girls approached her with confessions after class. Recently: "My boyfriend — he's jealous and angry and I don't know what to do."

Of course, she takes action. Sometimes, the girls grow angry. Some thank her.

Florio felt Melissa, a Clearwater High graduate, was reaching them. These kids, she thought, need to hear every word of this.

Chad Herman, who works at the Haven of RCS, a domestic violence center in Clearwater, thanked Melissa and took the microphone.

"Now you know the warning signs," he said. "You know it can happen to any of you. Any person in this room."

It starts subtly, Herman said.

Warning signs of an abusive boyfriend or girlfriend, according to the pamphlets printed for students by the Haven of RCS and partners, include early requests for serious commitment, extreme jealousy, possessiveness, violent outbursts and a tendency to criticize friends and family.

It's easier to prevent abuse, Herman said, when you recognize the early symptoms.

He walked the aisles, voice rising to compete with the end-of-period bzzz.

"It doesn't have to happen. We can beat domestic violence."

Danielle Paquette can be reached at or (727) 445-4224. To write a letter to the editor, go to


  1. Joshua Michael Nichols, 21, was arrested by Pasco County Sheriff's deputies on Saturday in connection to the early morning shooting death of an unidentified man during an argument outside a Spring Hill home. [Pasco County Sheriff's Office] ANASTASIA DAWSON  |  Pasco County Sheriff's Office
    One person is in custody. The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office is investigating.
  2. Yesterday• Pasco
    Dr. Rao Musunuru, MD, received his third “Paul Harris Award.” the highest recognition from the Rotary Club, on Aug. 15. The pin was presented to Dr. Musunuru, a nationally-recognized cardiologist, by Rotary 6950 District Governor Allen Collins in recognition of his humanitarian and philanthropic services to the people of Pasco County and the State of Florida for nearly 40 years. Pictured: Dr. Rao Musunuru, MD, (left) and Rotary 6950 District Governor Allen Collins. Jemith Rosa/Hudson Rotary Club
    News and notes about your neighbors
  3. A Lancaster County Sheriff's deputy walks around the Old Skool Sports Bar and Grill, the scene of a shooting early in the morning, north of Lancaster, S.C. on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019.  Lancaster County Sherriff's Office said in a statement that the agency was investigating a fatal shooting that also injured several people.  (Jessica Holdman/The Post And Courier via AP) JESSICA HOLDMAN  |  AP
    Two adult males were shot and killed.
  4. Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, right, listens to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, left, during the Youth Climate Summit at United Nations headquarters, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019.  (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez) EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ  |  AP
    Swedish 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg started the climate strike movement with her lone protest in front of her country’s parliament.
  5. Stay with for the latest news and updates. Times
    She was not in a crosswalk when she was hit, troopers say.
  6. Vice President Mike Pence reacts during an immigration and naturalization ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House grounds, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) ALEX BRANDON  |  AP
    Katie Waldman, a former University of Florida student senator, was accused of helping discard independent student newspapers with a front-page endorsement of a rival party’s candidate. | Analysis
  7. Check for the latest breaking news and updates. JAMAL THALJI  |  Tampa Bay Times
    John Clark used a shotgun to kill his mother and another man. Then he returned to the crime scene with a shotgun, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
  8. Sandra Gero, a regional search associate at Ray and Associates, hosts a meeting at the Middleton High School auditorium and gathers public comments on what people are looking for for the next Hillsborough County School Superintendent on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019 in Tampa. LUIS SANTANA  |  Times
    Using public meetings and a survey, they’re painting a picture of the ideal school leader.
  9. The main exhibit center at the Museum of Science & Industry in Tampa once stirred the imagination with dinosaurs and stars. Now, it's empty, but on the verge of rebirth as a movie studio.
    The County Commission has set aside $2 million for the project as the Film Commission studies the demand for it.
  10. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in the East Room of the White House, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) PATRICK SEMANSKY  |  AP
    Hunter Biden worked for a Ukrainian gas company.