For nearly a year, Kayla Hayes has been haunted by the ab-use she suffered at the hands of her ex-boyfriend Seth Aaron Fleury. Last week, Fleury, 23, was sentenced to 12 years in pr-ison after pleading guilty to as-sault and battery of a high and ag-gravated nature after biting off Hayes’ lip when she refused to kiss him after telling him she did not want to get back together.
Hayes, 19, is still healing from the physical and mental in-juries in-flicted on her that hor-rific night on October 21, 2017, but has bravely opened up about what she went through in the hope she can inspire others to seek help if they are vi-ctims of domestic vi-olence.
“This was the day that a piece of me d-ied,” Hayes wrote on Facebook. “Sitting in a puddle of my own bl-ood with the majority of my lip laying on my leg, my whole mouth on f-ire, confused and ter-rified, 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.”
On the night of the as-sault, Fleury met up with Hayes to discuss their relationship. “I was not there to get back together with him, however, I was there for him to right his wrongs,” Hayes explained.
After Hayes made her intentions clear, Fleury grew angry. He proceeded to kiss her and as she pulled away, “he bit down on her bottom lip with such force that her lip was amp-utated,” 13th Circuit Solicitor Walt Wilkins said in a statement.
Hayes underwent emergency plastic su-rgery, but doctors were unable to reattach her lip, leaving her with severe scars and limited range of motion in her mouth.
“I could not figure out how this happened so fast. I couldn’t figure out how he was so mad,” Hayes said. “Of course, as I said before, I wasn’t there to get back together with him. I refused and backed up only to feeling him latch on to me.”
“I then just started screaming at the top of my lungs for help and out of fear for my life. He then yanked me out of my own vehicle and slammed the door in my face so he could take off, and run away from what he had just done.”
“I remember the look of terror on the man’s face that just so happened to save my life this day. As well as the sweet elderly lady that had to walk out of her home to see such tr-agedy occurring but yet was so kind to try to help me and keep me comforted until further help arrived.”
Not understanding the severity of the situation until after they arrived, Hayes explained po-lice were so hor-rified that she remembers them “saying something along the lines of it being more serious than what he was expecting, my lip being completely severed off and for the EMS to come quick.”
Although Fleury fled the scene, it wouldn’t be the last time Hayes would hear from him. “He continued to call me once I made it into the ambulance, which felt like a lifetime after having something many women hold precious to them, completely mutilated.”
Adding to her already tra-umatic experience, Hayes recalls being afraid to tell her mom who was “seven hours away on her first vacation she had ever taken” without her.
“How could I ruin it?” Hayes wrote. “I then got on the phone with her friend and I remember trying to say he bit me 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.”
Proving just how strong she is, Hayes did her best to make light of the situation and joked with a nurse in the hospital that “I wouldn’t have to dress up for Halloween to scare everybody, that I could now go as my self.”
However, her high spirits were quickly crushed as the reality of what had just happened to her sunk in. “Never a day in my life will I ever wake up living my “normal” life again,” Hayes wrote on Facebook.
Like many vi-ctims of domestic vi-olence, Hayes initially blamed herself for what happened. But as time went by she realized she was in no way at fault.
“This happened because I chose not to get back together with someone that I knew didn’t deserve me which he proved once again.”
Before the at-tack, Hayes admits “there were many signs that I needed to be long gone but this was my very first serious relationship.”
“I used to be my at-tacker’s property, he manipulated me to the point where I almost lost everything and everyone in my life. The day that I walked out of this relationship was one of the best days of my life. Although, that was when he snapped. When he realized he lost all control over me and wasn’t gaining it back this day.”
Despite doing her best to piece her life back together, things for Hayes since the at-tack have been challenging.
At the time of the incident, Hayes was studying at Greenville Tech. “I was about a month and a half into my first year of college. Now, I am behind a year and should have been only about a year away from being done.” Hayes also revealed she lost all of her scholarships as a result of having to withdraw.
Not only did the at-tack affect her academic career, but nearly da-maged her self-confidence. “Being a young girl is already hard because you have so many expectations of how you should look, 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.’”
The as-sault has also changed Hayes’ outlook on starting a family. “I no longer want kids because I feel like bringing them in the world would be putting them into da-nger. 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.”
Nonetheless, she’s vowing to not let Fleury st-eal any more of her happiness. “I cannot allow him to keep taking it or I will never live the life I was meant to.”
Fleury will be eligible for parole in 10.2 years after he serves at least 85 percent of his 12-year sentence. Hayes now runs a blog, Rise Above, where she talks about her experiences to help others facing domestic vi-olence.
This Story Was Originally Published On “people.com”