By Lesley AtkinsonNovember 28, 2016
FORT LEE, Va. (Oct. 27, 2016) -- Christy Sims, author of "Yellow Tulips on A Cloudy Day," is a domestic violence survivor who shared her heart-wrenching story during a Domestic Violence Awareness Month program Friday at the Army Quartermaster Museum.
At first glance, Sims presented the image of flawless beauty as she stepped away from the lectern in her black, fitted dress and silky shoulder-length hair. With a closer look, however, it became obvious she had suffered a trauma she is no doubt reminded of every time she looks in the mirror.
She described the day it happened. It was a Sunday afternoon in late April three years ago. Sims had no reason to think anything was wrong when her then boyfriend called her to the bathroom. He was standing on a floor covered in water, holding a bowl of liquid sulfuric acid. When she entered the room, he threw it at her, dousing her face and body. In a matter of seconds, her life was changed forever.
"How did I get here?" she asked the audience. "I am a professional counselor. I come from a good family who loves me. I have always been a confident woman. So, how did I get to this place in my life?"
She shared moments of her past -- how she was the first in her family to go to college; how she lived a normal life, and thought she had it all "figured out." She got married, had two kids and the whole shebang. Her Cinderella story, however, was eventually eroded by relationship problems and it ultimately led to a divorce after 14 years.
With a new beginning, she started dating again and met a man who was charming and showered her with compliments and surprise gifts.
"We need that validation as women," she said. "I was falling in what I thought was love."
Over time, though, she started to discover more about herself and the man who was in her life. She began to notice his insecurities that manifested when she redirected her focus from the always doting girlfriend to someone trying to fix herself.
He began to analyze everything, she said, and didn't like what he saw. He expressed hatred toward her by picking on her body, her age, anything to bring her down. She started to feel insecure about things she never doubted before. Sims was being abused and didn't know it.
"I just didn't see it," she said. "It took almost three years to own up to it. You see, abusers don't just walk up and punch you in a face. They chip away to a degree. If I had not made the decision to not marry this guy (the reason he attacked her) he would have talked me down to a level you would not recognize me. I would not be strong enough to stand in front of you today."
She talked about how he was adamant about getting married. Sims said she was simply not interested. She wanted to date and enjoy her new life.
"It wasn't because he loved me. He was a single dad and wanted me to take care of his children," she noted. "He loved the idea of being married to an attractive, educated woman he could show off to his family. Did he really love me? I doubt it because, if he did, he wouldn't have torn me down and made me feel bad about myself He would have lifted me up."
She talked about her studies of human behavior and how his was not normal.
"Something was not right about him. He would try to find every void, failure and insecurity to make me feel horrible."
Her son, who was 13 at the time, said to her, "I hear sirens going-off inside me when he is around." Sims knew this feeling because she had the same sirens, but she had pushed it down deep inside because she was in a relationship.
Reaching the point where she was tired of feeling imprisoned in her own skin, Sims started to back away from the relationship.
A month passed, and her steadily decreasing attention pushed his insecurities to a new level of rage and jealousy. Sims asked God to help her end the relationship. She was determined to move forward with her life and find happiness. Those notions were met with hatred as her abuser lost control over her.
According to Sims, the moment in the bathroom was filled with rage. He had no remorse for his actions when he threw the acid, which is used to melt metal.
"The goal was to make sure I was unattractive," she said. "I believe he was thinking … 'if she isn't going to marry me, she will not marry anybody.' He was trying to destroy me."
Sims suffered third- and fourth-degree acid burns on her face, neck, chest and arms during the attack. The injuries were so bad she was in a coma for two months.
When she awoke, she said there was a fight within her to make sure people knew what happened.
During her recovery, she had to relearn how to walk, feed herself, see again, and her face was restored piece-by-piece with a total of 13 surgeries.
"Nothing on my face are my original features. One hundred percent of it suffered fourth-degree burns."
She began to write a book about her feelings and being a survivor. This helped her with her journey to recovery.
"My story is about domestic violence, but it is also about survival, overcoming variables and miracles. That is why I don't let people call me a victim.
"I know for certain somebody in this room -- even if that one person is not a domestic violence survivor -- will be affected by what I have to say. That's what keeps me going even on those days when I don't want to get up. It's not fun to go out in public like this. It is not glamorous, but every time I open my mouth, I believe somebody is saved. Somebody will make a different decision."
She continued to tell the audience she might not affect them today, but hopefully they will tell her story to someone else.
"Domestic violence is everybody's problem," she said. "For a long time, the title 'domestic violence' was in the home, but nobody wanted to talk about it. There was a stigma attached to it. The reason it is everybody's problem is because it goes to school, it goes to work, it affects productivity -- everything.
"I'm going to continue this fight. It's what I do now. I show people it can happen to anybody, even someone educated."
Her ex-boyfriend walked free for a year before being arrested. During that time, he was in another relationship, expecting a child and attending church. He had moved on with his life. He had told the police it was an accident. However, he eventually was sentenced to 20 years for aggravated assault and aggravated battery on July 23, 2015.
The presentation was hosted by the Army Community Service Family Advocacy Program. It provides immediate support to domestic violence victims and can assist with obtaining protective orders, coordinating emergency services and accompanying clients to court proceedings. To learn more, visit http://www.leemwr.com/domestic-abuse-empowerment-program-victim-advocacy or call (804) 734-6388.