Kayla Hayes couldn’t stand the stares she got before her lip injury healed. Hayes had put on a brave face for her mother following her first surgery, but inside she was hurting. Years of abuse had made her vulnerable to abusive and manipulative figures, culminating in a nasty lip injury inflicted by her ex.
The trauma changed Hayes’s life for the better as it inspired her to break free of the shackles of abuse and help others in similar situations. Kayla’s story features in the book She Rises: Overcoming Sexual Abuse & Domestic Violence What All Women Want To Know.
Kayla had her lip bitten off by an abusive ex-boyfriend
Kayla Hayes’s story began when her grandfather sexually abused her. The abuse destroyed her sense of self-worth and left her vulnerable. “It didn’t necessarily make me get into an abusive relationship, but it led me into my self-worth being so low that I settled for the thought that men overpowered me in a sense,” Hayes told The Effingham Herald.
Hayes was a high school senior when she met her ex-boyfriend, Seth Fleury. Kayla’s loved ones disapproved of the relationship, but she soldiered on, fearing that Fleury would harm her if she tried to leave.
After a year of lies and manipulation, Kayla ended relations with Seth. Hayes initially resisted meeting with Fleury, but she gave in to one last meet. Kayla approached the meeting fearing that something terrible would happen – and something terrible did happen. After she refused to get back together with Fleury, he bit off 85% of her lip. Hayes told FOX Carolina:
“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. I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know what was going on, how did this happen? I just remember thinking, I wish this would be over. All because he couldn’t take being rejected.”
Hayes’ lip was too severely damaged to reattach, so doctors cut around her cheeks to reconstruct the lip. Kayla wrote on Cosmopolitan that she tried to act and stay positive for her mom:
“When my mom got to the hospital, I was just getting out of surgery. She was in tears, devastated, but I tried to make light of the situation, joking, ‘Well at least I don’t have to dress up for Halloween!’ I know if I let it get to me, the she’d fall, too. I couldn’t bear to see that happen.”
Kayla needed over three hundred stitches, several surgeries, and reconstruction to restore the lip. Hayes still needs more work done to get back her smile, but she’s happy with the progress made so far. In late November 2021, Kayla posted several photos showing a recent procedure on her mouth. She captioned the photo:
“Revision of the scar & rolling of the lip. Dr. Boland does it again. I could never thank this gentleman enough for all his hard work and efforts to get my smile back as well as help me advocate. I think we officially might be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Kayla wishes to help anyone in an abusive relationship get out before it’s too late
Kayla’s recovery started after she found acceptance in the arms of her new boyfriend, Blake. The two were friends for a while before he became so much more in the aftermath of her assault. Kayla wrote:
“He’s been there with me through the surgeries and during Seth’s trial. He’s been such an angel and he’s lifted me up on my worst days. He tells me I’m beautiful. He tells me that he loved my smile before, and he loves my smile now.”
Then, Kayla saw the following quote on Pinterest: “She fought her battles the best she could, and she wore her scars as her wings.” Hayes adopted the quote as her mantra and resolved to help others in her situation to get out before something tragic happened.
She started a Facebook group titled She Rises with Kayla Hayes to help people break free of abusive situations. Kayla told The Effingham Herald that she gives back to society through her advocacy:
“You see on television about people not surviving these relationships and I really struggled with guilt that I was still here, and I figured there had to be a bigger purpose for me. You are not defined by the trauma that you have been through and you can rise above it. They need to know that they are not alone. The trauma and labels that people put on them do not define them.”
Kayla hopes that people learn from her experience and free themselves from abuse as soon as possible – that people can draw strength from her scars and believe in recovery. She concluded her Cosmopolitan article:
“I’ve always said I’d rather this happen to me, than the next girl. But there shouldn’t be a next girl, or a next anyone. I hope to hell what happened to me never happens to anyone else.”