On October 21, 2017, Kayla Hayes met up with her ex-boyfriend, Seth Fleury, inside her car. She told him she didn't want to get back together. She wanted to discuss their relationship, and give him an opportunity to right his wrongs. Seth got angry, and aggressively tried to kiss her. Kayla refused, and he bit her bottom lip, latching down with so much force that the lip was amputated. Kayla screamed in horror, and Seth kicked her out of her own car, slamming the door in her face. Then he took off running, leaving her in a puddle of blood on the street.
One year later, Kayla, 19, is still struggling to heal from that traumatic assault, both mentally and physically. "This was the day that a piece of me died," she wrote on Facebook. "Sitting in a puddle of my own blood with the majority of my lip laying on my leg, my whole mouth on fire, confused and terrified, I didn’t know how I could ever show my face again. At that point, wishing that those very seconds would just be my last— I wanted to give up for good."
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Luckily, some good samaritans stopped by to help. "I remember the look of terror on the man’s face that just so happened to save my life this day," wrote Kayla. "As well as the sweet elderly lady that had to walk out of her home to see such tragedy occurring but yet was so kind to try to help me and keep me comforted until further help arrived." When police officers arrived, they realized how severe the injury was, and called for an ambulance.
As Kayla rode to the hospital, she reflected that it "felt like a lifetime after having something many women hold precious to them, completely mutilated." She considered calling her mom, who was "seven hours away on her first vacation [by herself]" but didn't want to ruin her experience. Instead, she called her mom's friend, but "no-one could understand me because my lips couldn’t pronounce it. I then blew up into a ball of emotions and gave the phone to the lady behind me, allowing her to explain."
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When Kayla woke up in the hospital, she showed astonishing strength. She made light about her injuries, joking, "I wouldn’t have to dress up for Halloween to scare everybody, that I could now go as myself." The nurse laughed, and handed Kayla a mask to cover her face. That's the moment reality sank in. Doctors conducted emergency plastic surgery, but were unable to reattach her lip, leaving her with a cheek-to-cheek scar, and a mouth with severely limited motion. "Never a day in my life will I ever wake up living my 'normal,' life again," she reflected.
However, last week justice was served. Seth Aaron Fleury, 23, pleaded guilty to assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison, and will be eligible for parole after serving 85% of his time, which is about ten years. It seems too short, considering how Kayla will be healing for a lifetime. "I no longer want kids because I feel like bringing them in the world would be putting them into danger," wrote Kayla. "If Seth could flip like a switch because I refused a kiss, then imagine what he would do if he ran into me or my family again."
At the time of the assault, Kayla was a month and a half into her freshman year at Greenville Tech, her whole life ahead of her. Now she's behind a year, and was cruelly forced to withdraw from all of her scholarships. She still plans to return to university, and pay out of pocket, after getting one more surgical procedure. Her mother sold their house because the incident took place across the street, and the very sight of the front door throws Kayla into a state of panic.
Scrolling through social media can also be harrowing experience. "Being a young girl is already hard because you have so many expectations of how you should look," wrote Kayla, "so you can only imagine how my insecurities skyrocketed once I had a flat face with a scar wrapping from cheek to cheek and was known as the ‘girl that had her lip bitten off.'"
But through all the pain and turmoil, Kayla is determined to stay positive. She started the blog, Rise Above, with the slogan, "Wear your scars as wings." By courageously sharing her experiences, she hopes to inspire other victims of domestic violence to seek help. "Seth Fleury has taken enough of my happiness," wrote Kayla. "I cannot allow him to keep taking it or I will never live the life that I was meant to."
If you are a victim of domestic violence, call The Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.