Ashley’s Story

In the movies, boy-meets-girl is the starting formula for happily-ever-after.

For Ashley, however, meeting “Mark” was the beginning of a nightmare instead, one that almost took her life.

“We met in April 2010, and that first night we talked for hours,” she said. “Everything seemed all right.”

Life was going well for Ashley that spring as she dated Mark, saw her salon business grow, and purchased her own home. But by summertime, Mark was becoming angry at the smallest of things.

 “In August of 2010, he got mad and slammed me into the wall. I heard the crack and fell to the floor in so much pain,” Ashley said. “I couldn’t breathe; he had cracked my ribs. But the next day I went to urgent care and told them I fell down the steps.”

Why? Because Mark was very apologetic, and she was concerned that if her parents found out there would be more trouble. Though she didn’t report the abuse, she did break up with Mark.

But when her sister died unexpectedly the next month, Mark swept in to take care of Ashley.

“He was so good to me,” she said. Then, just as her ribs were healing, Ashley found herself face down on the floor, with Mark stomping on her back.

He threatened to kill her or her nephew if she told, so she publicly attributed her latest injuries to a boating accident and tried to put the incident behind her.

“I was scared and ashamed then,” she said. “It’s like you’re brainwashed; you lose your identity.”

By Thanksgiving Mark was again raging, keeping Ashley up all night with his rants. She ordered him out, and locked the door behind him.

Over the following year, she worked to regain her sense of self, but Mark occasionally showed up at her workplace or home, swearing that he had changed for the better.  They reunited.

In January 2012, Ashley was driving a drunken Mark home from a night out with friends when the abuse began again.

“While I was driving, he punched me six times in the face, so hard that my permanent retainers came up over my teeth,” she said. “I hit back this time and split his lip, and he spit the blood at me. He said if I was a ‘good girl’ he wouldn’t hurt me when we got home.

“But when we got there, he pulled me from the car, threw me into the door and a wall, and kicked me about 35 times in my head and back. I passed out and when I came to in the morning, he asked what had happened to me,” she said.

Ashley sought counseling and worked out a plan to leave Mark. But before that happened, trouble with the boss at work sent Mark into another violent spiral. He smashed things, called her names, followed her, and texted her 50 times over a two-hour span. 

Ashley got a 3 a.m. call from her parents, who live three hours away, saying Mark was trying to contact them as well, and they were worried for her safety.

“Just then I saw his car whip into my driveway, so I set the house alarm, grabbed the panic button and got into bed,” Ashley said. Mark got into the house anyway.

“The next thing I remember is waking up facedown at the window, in blood. My nose and eye were busted,” Ashley said. “The next time I woke up he was strangling me, with his arm around my neck. I put the panic button under my knee and squeezed it, and the alarm began to sound. I was in and out of consciousness.”

The third time she came to, Mark was struggling with a passerby who had heard the alarm. Ashley locked herself in the bathroom but Mark broke free and came through the door after her.

“The next thing I remember is being on my kitchen floor, with six cops around me. They caught him running while the EMTs were loading me into the ambulance,” she said.


Once released from the hospital, Ashley and her parents went to the courthouse to file for a temporary protective order.

“I was very confused, and people were staring at me because I was so beat up,” she said. An InterAct court advocate appeared and led the family to the district attorney’s office.

Ashley had no prior knowledge of InterAct or its services, but was grateful to find free and confidential counseling and legal representation.

“Then on Monday I went to work, but I couldn’t find my way home,” Ashley said. She felt exhausted and confused. A couple of days later, suffering slurred and stuttering speech, she lost consciousness at work.  

Back at the hospital, Ashley learned that she had suffered three TIAs, or transient ischemic attacks, often referred to as mini or warning strokes.

“My face drooped with Bell’s palsy, I didn’t recognize my parents, and I couldn’t converse,” Ashley said. “I had hypoxia, which is a lack of oxygen, from being strangled. There was memory loss, and I walked around literally in circles; I thought every day was Thursday. For four months, I lost 65 percent of my brain function.”

Ashley required round-the-clock care; in addition to the medical bills, the injuries impacted her business, and she lost more than $33,000 in 2012 alone.

Over the next six months her memory loss ranged from 35 to 60 percent. Friends and family took turns staying with Ashley, and helped her prepare for a court date, when she would face Mark for the first time since the assault.

In June 2012, under a plea agreement, Mark was convicted of felony and misdemeanor charges in the case, sentenced to six months’ prison time plus two years probation, and ordered to pay Ashley restitution of 30 percent of her financial losses.

“I used to never think twice; I was adventurous and have traveled to 10 or 12 countries. Now I think everything through, and I’m always apprehensive,” said Ashley, who has been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  “My brain is healing, and I’m only minus 10 percent now instead of 65 percent. But it affects so much. I’ve been denied for life insurance or short term disability, due to the neurological damage.”

She continues to suffer from long- and short-term memory loss, and has trouble with facial recognition.

“I used to be a huge socialite,” she said. “Now I can’t remember some of my friends, and I introduce myself over and over. It’s so embarrassing.”

During the court process, Ashley learned that she was the fifth assault victim on Mark’s record; two women had fled the state to escape him. That makes her proud to have taken a stand against her abuser.

“It took me 55 minutes to read my victim impact statement in court, but I’m the only one who saw it through,” Ashley said; she was recently awarded a three-year renewal of the protective order against Mark, with help from InterAct’s legal services.

She’s now working with InterAct to make others aware that help is available.

“It’s important to let people know that there’s help and empathy,” she said. “I had no idea about InterAct until I had nowhere to go. Now I refer people; they have so many resources. And being able to tell your story — no matter how far in you are, there’s a way to get out. This is a special place to help domestic violence victims.”

Ashley continues to live in the house where she almost lost her life.

“It’s my house and I’m doing it,” she said. “And it’s my business, and my clients, and I’m not going to run.

“The person I was and the person I am now are pretty different, but I’m alive,” she said. “I’m alive.”  

Editors' note: InterAct offers free, confidential services for victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

24-hour domestic violence crisis line: (919) 828-7740 or toll-free at (866) 291-0855

24-hour rape/sexual assault crisis line: (919) 828-3005 or toll-free (866) 291-0853

For more information, see  


1 Comment

  • Teresa Ragan says:

    Ashley is an amazing beautiful soul. What was done to her is horrific. Her smile and personality will light up a room. I am so proud of her. I love her, she is family.

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