DETROIT – Tyria Thomas said she knew she was in a bad relationship, but like so many others in that position, she said she didn’t see a way out.
Now, she’s sharing her personal struggle in hopes that her story can help save lives. Thomas was shot by her boyfriend six times and survived to share her story.
“The worst moments probably would have been the verbal abuse. Just always having to walk on eggshells, and feeling like you aren’t good enough,” Thomas said.
When Thomas was 33 years old she found herself facing what she described as one of the biggest battles of her life. Her relationship with her boyfriend had turned violent.
“There was physical abuse involved, verbal abuse, emotional abuse ... You name it,” she said. “I knew I needed to get out but I never made the step to actually, really, walk away.”
Thomas said looking back she can tell why it was so hard for her to leave.
“I thought I could help him. I’m a nurturer at heart. I felt sorry for him. I thought things would get better,” she said. “I believed the apologies. I thought he would change.”
Thomas said things were only getting worse and it all led up to the night she said changed her life forever. She drove to her boyfriend’s place in Redford, planning to break up with him and when she got there she said he refused to open the door.
“We would fight all of the time. I never thought that he would actually do what he did that night,” she said. “He came outside with a .40 caliber weapon in his hand.”
She said they fought in the driveway and that he was very angry.
“I had seen a level of anger that I had never seen before. It was almost as if I was looking at a demon himself, so I began to get scared,” she said.
Thomas said her boyfriend took the gun and pointed it at her back. She said she was shot six times total -- five times in her upper extremities and once in her leg, breaking her femur bone.
She said as she laid in the driveway bleeding, she watched her boyfriend pick the gun up and shoot himself in the head.
“The police did arrive and I can hear the sirens, it was almost a sigh of relief,” she said.
Thomas was rushed into surgery and spent a lot of time recovering in a hospital, and eventually she had to learn to walk all over again.
“I was in denial that I was even in an abusive relationship. I thought, ‘He hits me. I hit him back, we fight, we argue,'” she said. “It was like, ‘No.’ My mom and daughter sat me down, like, ‘You’re being abused’ and I was, like, I couldn’t see it at the time. I never thought that it would have gotten this bad,” she said.
Thomas wants women who find themselves in a situation that is toxic to their well-being to take the steps to leave as soon as possible. She wants to remind women that people that abuse others need to be allowed to get help on their own.
Thomas is on a mission to share her story to help others. She started a nonprofit organization that helps battered women and children find shelter and get back on their feet. It’s called My Beaten Heart.