The “Mordus Club” helps victims of animal attacks around the world. Over 400 members can share their traumatic experiences.
The “Bite Club” or “Club des mordus” is a unique circle. Created by Dave Pearson, an Australian who survived a shark attack, it comes to the aid of the hundreds of people across the planet who have experienced this type of traumatic experience.
Nearly ten years ago, the 58-year-old man was surfing the Australian east coast when a bulldog shark tore off his arm. His friends managed to get him back to the beach, away from the three-meter-long predator that had dragged him down to the ocean floor. Since that day, he has helped victims of attacks overcome their trauma.
“My life is made up of shark attacks,” he says, after a day spent catching waves on the beach where the tragedy took place.
Initially, the “Mordus Club” had only a small number of victims of these marine predators. It has since spread to people attacked by dogs, alligators and even hippos.
Its members, now around 400, usually meet at least once a year. Some even see each other to surf while others stay in touch via social media.
“They didn’t understand”
His club is a network of survivors seeking support. The founder therefore spends most of his nights on the phone with at least one of his members who feels the need to talk.
It was by accident in the hospital sharing his traumatic experience with Lisa Mondy, attacked a few days before him by a shark, that he realized the importance of sharing.
“Everyone was there to wish me the best, but until I spoke with Lisa it was like they didn’t really understand what was on my mind,” recalls the surfer.
The shock of the attack mixed with the media coverage is disturbing for the victims and their relatives but also for the relief workers. In some cases, it can cause post-traumatic stress disorder.
On the day in 2013 when 19-year-old Zac was killed by a tiger shark near the Australian town of Coffs Harbor, his father, Kevin Young, felt devastated by a devastating storm.
While his legs were nearly severed, his son managed to join by rowing his three friends, aged 14, 15 and 19. In the middle of the blood-red waters, the trio rowed for nearly half an hour to bring him back alive to shore. In vain.
“In my mind that day those three boys turned into men,” said Young, who feels “indebted for life” for what they did.
Like Mr. Pearson, Mr. Young speaks of the pain of others before his own. Everyone who took part in rescuing his son paid the psychological price, he says.
Different points of view
For Mr. Young, it is a chance to belong to this “Bite Club” which prevents the victims from being left on their own.
Among them is Ray Short. In 1966, then 13, a shark tore off his leg while swimming near Wollongong, south of Sydney.
At the time, “if you met or heard of one or two other victims of shark bites, it was incredible,” recalls Mr. Short, who is delighted that the club exists.
For Mr. Pearson, while all of its members are closely related, their views diverge. Some are in favor of killing sharks and others are conservationists. Likewise, the way to overcome this trauma differs.
The ocean stronger than fear
Mr. Pearson, like many other members of the circle, has not turned his back on the ocean. Only his practice of “surfing has changed, it’s probably more special now because I know the consequences”.
While shark attacks remain exceptional, they were particularly numerous – 22 – last year in Australia and killed seven, according to the Taronga Conservation Society.
In 2020, the island continent was the country with the most attacks, according to global data from the Shark Research Program at the Florida Museum of Natural History.
“Last year, I met four families who lost someone and it’s hard, every attack reminds you of yours,” says Pearson.
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