‘Organs were outside my body’: The costs of domestic violence

Published: April 27, 2017 6:23 PM EDT
Updated: April 27, 2017 11:28 PM EDT

If you’re a domestic violence victim who needs someone to talk to, here’s where you can call:

  • Lee County – (239) 939-3112

  • Charlotte County – (941) 627-6000

  • Collier County – (239) 775-1101

FORT MYERS, Fla. Tiffany Nemec hung on to life by an intestine.

She narrowly escaped death, but even nine years later, she still considers it.

“There are days when I feel like my children are the only things worth sticking around for,” she said. “Because if it weren’t for them, I would just want to end the pain. And I’m not a suicidal person. That’s just complete honestly. Because the physical and mental pain gets so bad.”

Organs outside her body

Nemec woke up to gunshots at about 5 a.m.

Her ex-boyfriend, Richard Lawrence, shot the locks off her front door.

She grabbed her then 10-month-old daughter out of her room.

They, along with a friend who was spending the night, hid at first.

“We were in the closet and I realized there was nowhere to go,” she said. “He’s going to find us. It wasn’t a bravery thing. It was a fight or flight thing. So I gave Lori my daughter and went out to confront him.”

Lawrence threw her onto the bathroom floor, aimed his gun at her, and fired.

“I realized I couldn’t stay there,” she said. “I had to pick everything up and get through the house. My entrails, my intestines, organs were outside my body.”

Nemec made it to the kitchen.

“I heard him behind me, and I kind of turned, and I seen him, and as I did, I was pretty dizzy from the blood loss,” she said. “So I fell, and as I fell he shot at me again. And that one hit my face.”

The second shot took off most of her face.

The next shot was fatal.

“He was standing over me, but he never said a word,” she said. “He put the shotgun to his head and shot himself.”

Physical, financial costs

Nemec, who was 20 years old at the time, had most of her stomach and large intestines removed in surgery.

Doctors also removed half of her liver and colon.

Her spleen was taken out.

“Whatever I would eat would come back out of my gunshot wound,” she said.

Her facial injuries require surgery every year.

“Physical pain that’s so bad some days I can’t even get out of bed,” she said.

One in three women will be a victim of intimate partner violence in their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This means 20 victims every minute.

Or one every three seconds.

The total cost of domestic violence is estimated at $8 billion a year, according to the CDC.

Most of the cost – $5.8 billion – is direct, in addition to $4 billion for healthcare and nearly $2 billion in lost productivity.

“When I was shot, I was going to school to get my RN,” Nemec said. “And now I have the physical, mental disability. I can’t really hold a job. I can’t remember half the things I’m supposed to do.”

If Nemec spent 40 years as a nurse earning an average of $65,000 a year, she would’ve earned and paid taxes on about $2.6 million.

Instead, she survives on disability.

“As you can imagine, disability for a 20-year-old who had never really paid into the system is not very high,” she said.

Domestic violence victims are more likely to develop other health, sociological and psychological issues.

“That’s something I have to learn to deal with, that it’s not my fault,” she said. “Because there are days where it feels like it’s completely my fault.”

Why not leave?

Domestic violence centers around an abusive partner who needs to be in constant control of the relationship, said Dr. Laura Streyffeler, who treats domestic violence victims.

“Obedience is synonymous with love, and if you disobey me, you’ll be punished,” she said.

Nemec, in a story that ran on WINK News at 11 p.m., explained why she didn’t leave her boyfriend right away.