Two years ago, Carleigh Hager met her now ex-boyfriend Ryan Cameron at a party. The 25-year-old admits to Indianapolis's WTHR that she was immediately smitten:
“He was Prince Charming. I fell in love with him instantly.”
The pair began dating and Hager recalls believing that this was the man she would marry one day. On Facebook, she posted pictures of the two of them, seemingly happy and content in their relationship:
But behind closed doors, it was a different story. About a month ago, after two years together, Cameron began getting violent with her. Hager tells WTHR:
“He would call me names and I'd start to cry and he didn't like when I would cry. And he would cock back his hand and hit me in the stomach.”
Hager tried to break up with him, but when she did, he would threaten her. Terrified and embarrassed, she stayed, keeping silent about what was really going on.
“I was so embarrassed to tell my family because I had started a life with him.”
They maintained their perfect exterior — especially on social media — but as Hager points out: “social media is not everything you think.”
After attending a wedding last week, Cameron invited some friends back to the home that he and Hager shared. It was then that the friends were tuned in to the pain Hager was enduring.
Cameron started cursing at Hager and soliciting her to his friends. She recalls:
“He started calling me names like an 'effin' b,' the 'c-word' and then he proceeded to tell his friends if they ever wanted to f**k me, here was their opportunity.”
Trying to calm the situation, Hager retreated to their bedroom and went to bed. This only served to infuriate Cameron more:
“He ran back to our room and locked our door and started to choke me in my sleep. His friends came back to our room, busted our door down, got him out.”
A determined Cameron fought off his friends and locked them out of the house. He then continued his attack on Hager, biting her all over her body and at one point attempting to rip out her tongue.
Hager eventually lost consciousness and woke up to a female police officer standing over her bloodied and beaten body.
Cameron was placed under arrest and Hager was transferred by ambulance to a nearby hospital. She sustained multiple injuries in the attack, including swelling and blood in the brain. Because of her tongue injury — Cameron was successful at ripping part of it out of her mouth — Hager will be unable to eat solid foods for at least three weeks.
Once embarrassed to tell anyone what was going on, a brave Hager is now sharing her story. She wants people to know that life is much different than how it's portrayed on social media.
And knowing that there are other women out there, women who are suffering and who are too afraid to say something, she wants to help. She advises:
“Don't ever let them tell you that you're nothing, That you have nowhere to go. Don't let them take your spirits away from you and tell you that you're not pretty, that you can't do anything. Hang out with your friends. Do anything in this world. 'Cause that's not a man. That's not somebody who loves you.”
Hager is hoping that by opening up about her abuse she can save others from enduring the pain she has experienced.
With a long road to recovery ahead of her, Hager's friends and family have set up a GoFundMe page to help cover medical expenses.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), on average, ten million people are physically abused by a domestic partner each year. If you need help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE (7233).
You can watch Carleigh Hager's full interview, below: