Abuse.jpgStacy Ashby holds a candle during the Fort Jackson Candlelight Vigil on Oct. 6, 2021, at the Main Post Chapel. Ashby told her story of being in an abusive relationship and how she almost lost her life at the hands of her abuser. (Alexandra Shea)

By Alexandra Shea, Fort Jackson Public Affairs

“Feb. 23, 2019, we planned a trip to Virginia Beach to visit my son,” said Stacy Ashby. “We went to the hotel and my abuser began drinking. I asked him to leave. He started texting me he wanted all the jewelry that he had given me.

“I didn’t think anything was going to happen to me by going into the hallway,” she continued. “When I went into the hallway I told him when we get back I want to go our separate ways. He pushed me down and shot me three times.”

Ashby woke up two weeks later in the hospital. After losing 78% of her blood volume, hospital staff put her in an induced coma to help her body heal from the trauma. She attributes her survival to God and the police convention that was taking place during her mini vacation at the Virginia Beach hotel.

“I knew that God was there because what are the odds of that?” she said. “A police convention that weekend and on the first night that we had checked into the hotel.”

At 53, Ashby never thought she would become one of more than 19,000 adults annually to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline to report domestic violence and seek help before being shot.

“I didn’t know what to do. I contacted the domestic violence hotline,” she said. “I called all the shelters on the domestic abuse pamphlet and not one program could take me into a shelter. Not one program. I did want to leave but it was hard for me to leave the situation because I had nowhere to go.”

Shelters in her area were already at capacity, Ashby spent nights sleeping in her car as an alternative. According to Ashby, her abuser did his best to bring her back into his home to continue his verbal and physical abuse.

Left with extremely limited physical and monetary resources, she returned to his home until the couple went on their final vacation together.

“I felt sorry for him because he was an alcoholic,” she said. “As women, we are natural nurturers. I felt like if I did things this way, he wouldn’t get angry. I did everything I possibly could not to get him angry. That didn’t work.”

Since 2019, Ashby has shared her story during events such as Fort Jackson’s candle light vigil, to let both men and women who may be silently suffering toxic and abusive relationships know they are not alone.

“People are so judgmental. I did hear people say, ‘Why did you stay in that situation? I would have left,’” she said. “You don’t know what you would do unless you were actually in that situation. I did want to leave. I had nowhere to go.”

In addition to the Domestic Violence Hotline, Ashby said opening up and talking to trusted friends and family members about being in an abusive relationship is another resource that can help when trying to leave a toxic relationship. Friends and family can offer support throughout the process and possibly provide a safe place to stay until a new permanent safe home can be found.

“This is my story. I just hope that someone here, if you are experiencing it, don’t be ashamed. Talk to someone,” she pleaded. “I think a lot of women are experiencing that very same thing. We are all responsible for making change. Like going to our congress and saying this is a big deal. Just like breast cancer awareness, domestic violence is a big deal too. It’s life or death. I almost lost my life. I’m so grateful to still be here to tell my story and to help somebody else.”

The National Domestic Violence Hotline can be contacted by phone at (800) 799-SAFE (7233) or online at www.thehotline.com.

Fort Jackson’s Army Community Services offers local assistance through the U.S. Army Family Advocacy Program and can be contacted by stopping by their office at 9810 Lee Road or by phone at (803) 429-4870 24 hours a day, seven days a week.