SIMPSONVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina)- In a parking lot in downtown Simpsonville, Kayla Hayes is reminded of an event last year that would change her life.
Just before her 19th birthday, Hayes met up with her ex-boyfriend to discuss their relationship. When she refused to get back together with him, he leaned in and bit off her lip. "He just latched on to me. I remember, I felt it tear and it was already numb, but I felt it and I went into completely shock and survival mode and started screaming," Hayes said.
"I looked down and my lip was literally on my leg it was covered in gravel... I picked it up and was like what the heck is this and I had my phone in my hand somehow and I looked at my front camera and I didn't know what to do, I didn't know what was going on, how did this happen, how did this happen? I just remember thinking, I wish this would be over. All because he couldn't take being rejected."
Seth Fleury was convicted of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature in connection with the incident. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Hayes' recovery involved surgeries, reconstruction and over 300 stitches.
Though her physical recovery was difficult, Hayes said she struggled even more with the emotional recovery.
"Nobody expects someone who is supposed to love them to turn into an animal... to bite them with the force of a pit bull bite. You just don't expect that from someone who's supposed to love you and want you back," she said.
Now, she's finding strength in her story and attributes a particular quote as a major part of her healing process:
"'Wear your scars as your wings' and I think that really helped me get through it all... because my scar I'm going to use it as my wing and I'm going to fly and rise above all of this."
She wants to use her story to make sure those in potentially violent relationships can recognize the signs and get help.
"There's a difference between accepting ups and downs rather than accepting abuse, whether it be physical, mental, whatever it is. Don't accept it. You need to rise above. You need to continue to stay strong, you need to get out."
Greenville, SC - South Carolina Solicitor's Office stated that Seth Fleury was convicted of Assault and Battery of a High and Aggravated Nature, and he received 12 years in the state corrections department. Thirteenth Circuit Solicitor Walt Wilkins stated that Seth Fleury would have to serve at least 85 percent of the 12 year sentence before he can be considered for parole.