Michigan woman uses her voice to help other domestic violence survivors

She records music, speaks publicly about surviving attack by ex

By Karen Drew - Reporter/Anchor, Meaghan St Pierre - Producer
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CANTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. - Ashley focuses on her daughter, her music and her future.  

She is a survivor of domestic violence.

"You just don't think someone's going to wake up and want you dead ever," Ashley said.

Ashley was attacked by her ex-boyfriend in her apartment last January. 

One in every four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.   Ashley has come forward to share her story in the hopes that it will help another survivor have the courage to escape their situation.

Ashley said she had just woken up and was getting ready for work. She said her ex sat next to her on the bed, started rubbing her arms saying he was sorry but he had to do this.

"(He) put me in a choke hold, got on top of me, dragged me off the bed," Ashley said.  "I remember just trying to pry him off me but I couldn't. I was kicking and nothing was happening."

Ashley said she eventually passed out and was dropped to the floor.

"I had started coming back to and he went up against the wall and started crying he's like 'Oh my God. Oh my God. You're moving. I'm so sorry. I just wanted to kill you and then kill myself. I'm so sorry,'" Ashley recalls.

Ashley said she couldn't believe what  had happened because he had never hurt her before.   She said she was able to run out of the apartment and down the stairs screaming for help.  A neighbor let her inside.

"As I was running out, I could hear him running after me and so if he would have got me, I don't think I would be here today, I really don't," Ashley said.

Ashley was strangled nearly to death.

"I'm really lucky. Even the doctor told me, she's like 'You're so lucky that the retina of your eyes weren't affected, that you weren't blind, that there was no severe brain damage,' because even outside of him choking me, when I hit the ground, my head hit the ground really hard  so the neurologist I'm seeing actually thinks I may have suffered a concussion as well," Ashley said.

"Even for myself who has seen certainly some terrible injuries it was very horrifying," Jill Popovich said of Ashley's injuries.

Jill Popovich, the Community Response Program Coordinator of First Step helped Ashley in the hours, days, weeks and months after the attack.  First Step is a nonprofit agency that helps domestic violence survivors with a 24 hour help line, assistance through the court proceedings, temporary emergency housing, among several other services.

"The sooner  we can speak with the clients and help them with safety plans the better the outcome," Popovich said.

Popovich said their goal is to connect with survivors within the first 24 hours of an attack.

"I wish I would have walked away when I had the chance to.  There were several chances, you know, him being controlling, the drug use, he had been to jail before, all things where I should have walked away," Ashley said.

Her ex-boyfriend was convicted of assault with the intent to murder and domestic violence and is serving a six to 10 year prison sentence.

"If you have a boyfriend who is using drugs and they clearly don't want to stop or ...  if your boyfriend has laid his hands on you, I don't care if it was even once or if it was like a little push or whatever, just get out while you can, get the help while you can, Ashley said. 

Since the attack, Ashley has resumed her music career, writing and recording songs about her experiences including surviving this attack.   That song is called 'Keep On.'

Ashley is incredibly grateful to First Step for helping her since the attack including walking her through the court proceedings and for giving her so much support.   She is also very appreciative of the Canton Township police department.

"Ashley's doing great today she's recorded a song she sent to me about her experience she's incredibly strong woman I have a lot of respect for her strength I don't even think she realizes how strong she is," Popovich said. "I feel very honored in meeting and working with her she has truly been an inspiration not only for me but for this agency as a whole to see someone who has risen above all these obstacles and is now moving forward and living life the way that she deserves to live it."

She will be speaking at a First Step event Thursday to raise funds to help provide safe shelter and support survivors.  The First Step Strength Determination and Power Cocktail Hour is May 11, 2017 from 5:30 p.m. - 7:30  p.m. at Arnaldo's Banquet Center in Riverview. 

For more information, click here

First Step has a 24 hour help line that anyone can call: 734-722-6800 or 888-453-5900.

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