“Alive By the Grace of God”

Posted on October 30, 2017

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NOTE: The names of the parties involved have been changed to protect their identity.

By the time she was able to verbally communicate again, Lauren had been in the hospital for over a week.  The doctor told her she was alive only by the grace of God. Her jaw was broken on both sides.  It had been wired shut.  Phil wasn’t there.  He hadn’t been there since he dropped her off early morning on August 17, 2016.  Finally, Lauren was able to tell the medical staff what had actually happened.  Her injuries weren’t a result of a car wreck.  She was severely beaten, choked and nearly killed by her husband.

Lauren and Phil met online in 2014.  She thought he was “good people.”  Later, Lauren found out that Phil had been to jail on domestic violence charges.  He denied any wrongdoing.  She believed him.  Three months into their relationship, it was happening to her.  Phil was jealous and possessive.  Jealousy led to pushing.  Then came shoving.  Punching.  Choking.  Lauren was now trapped in an abusive relationship.  She’d never been in this situation before and didn’t know what to do.

She recalls one episode when the two of them were hanging around the house when her phone rang.  She knew it was her sister and didn’t answer.  Phil mistook it as something else and started accusing her of cheating on him.  It wasn’t true and Lauren denied it, but it was of no use.  He punched and beat her.  Similar episodes became a new normal.  Phil would even abuse her in front of his mother and grandmother.  Initially, Lauren thought they may be able to save her, but that wasn’t so.  They blamed Lauren.

She tried leaving him a number of times, but each time, she would, somehow, be back.  He would threaten her.  One time, after she’d left him, she heard a knock on her window in the middle of the night.  It was Phil.  “I see you there sleeping,” he said.  “I’m outside waiting on you.  You better come out.” She was afraid of him.  She was afraid of people judging her.  Nobody knew anything.  What would they say if she left her husband?

That evening started like most other.  Lauren knew that Phil was being unfaithful with two other women.  She knew he was now abusing drugs and alcohol.  But she was trying to make it work.  She doesn’t know what happened to have provoked him that night.  Or, maybe she doesn’t remember due to the injuries she sustained.  “We were fine,” she recalls, “talking and laughing.”  Out of nowhere, Phil snapped.  “You think I’m stupid,” he shouted.  No argument beforehand or anything.  He started choking her.  By this point, Lauren knew to bite her tongue and not say anything.  She was just trying to get him to calm down.  He did for a little while.  The two started to get intimate.  Lauren refused to do what Phil wanted, and this set him off again.  He started accusing her of cheating on him.  He started to beat her.  She scratched him.  He kept going.  She bit him.  After that, he sat on her chest and started punching her.  There was now blood everywhere.  Lauren remembers begging him to stop.  “I have kids,” she pleaded.  But Phil didn’t care.  The last thing she remembers is him threatening to kill her.  Then she lost consciousness.

When she woke up, it was around 5 a.m.  Phil was in the bathroom on the phone, crying.  When he saw her wake up, he came up to her begging not to tell anyone.  He said he would take her to his grandmother’s house if she promised not to tell anyone what happened.  Promise she did.  On the way to the car, she tried making a run for it.  He grabbed her, and said if she tried that again, he would kill her and nobody would find out.  When they got to the grandmother’s house, Lauren’s face was swollen.  She couldn’t breathe or swallow.  “Grandma saw me walking like a dog, but she didn’t try to call the police or anything.”  Finally, Phil agreed to take her to the hospital if she wouldn’t tell them what happened.  Instead, he would tell them she’d been in a car accident.

When they got there, Lauren was in respiratory distress.  Because she couldn’t breathe, she was put under respirator.  Due to the severity of her injuries, she went under surgery right away.  Her jaw was wired shut.

After more than two weeks in the hospital, two surgeries, and hours of therapy, Lauren is better.  Still nobody knows what he did to her face.  She has brown burnt-like marks.  Some have been surgically removed already.  She will need more cosmetic surgeries.  She still has problems with her throat.  She has back problems.  She has severe anxiety and depression.  However, she is thankful to be alive.

She came to South Carolina Legal Services through a victim advocacy group.  After she had told the medical staff what had happened, they called the sheriff’s office.  Phil had gotten arrested and has been charged with the most serious domestic violence charge.  He’s currently in jail awaiting trial.  An attorney at SCLS took on Lauren’s case.  He filed for divorce on the grounds of physical cruelty and habitual drunkenness.  In April 2017, the divorce was granted.  The judge also granted Lauren a very strict restraining order to prevent Phil from abusing her or even attempting to contact her in any way.

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