Tiffany Nemec doesn’t see herself as a survivor but she is. More than a decade ago, her boyfriend shot her in the face. Nemec still lives with the scars, and sadly this is just one of her many stories.
“13 years ago, I was shot by my daughter’s father,” said Nemec.
13 years later she’s still living with the trauma, scars and pain of that situation. “13 years later, I’m still asking for help,” Nemec said.
She was in an abusive relationship. At one point, she was able to escape but he found her.
“He tracked me down to my new apartment, shot the locks off the door, shot my face, or shot my stomach first then in my face,” said Nemec. “I was shot with birdshot. It’s not like one thing hit one tooth, or three or five. I had my back teeth blown out, my front teeth some of them were blown out, some were just chipped.”
And, he kept shooting. “When he shot me the second time, he stood over me and then shot himself.”
The entire time, the only thing on her mind was saving her daughter. Luckily, she was able to do just that. Fast forward 13 years and you may see her as a survivor but Nemec doesn’t see herself that way. But, she hopes to one day.
“It went from I would not survive, to if I did survive, I would have major deficits both mentally, from being shot in the head to physically,” Nemec said.
Her injuries devastated her. “To see half of my face was missing and my teeth were shot out, it was detrimental to me,” she said. “I am 33. I was 20 when I was shot, I don’t want dentures.”
“I know a lot of people are like ‘do you really need it, right?’ do I need it? I feel like I need it for my mental health. The first thing you notice about somebody are their eyes and their teeth,” she said.
Nemec wants dental implants. And, as if she hasn’t paid enough, she says the lowest estimate she’s gotten is $35,000 for reconstructive surgery. Her insurance won’t cover the procedure because they categorize it as cosmetic.
For Nemec, it’s so much more than just a cosmetic procedure. “There is such a stigma with domestic violence and for a long time I heard, man you’re so strong, to the point where I felt like a hypocrite on the inside because I knew I wasn’t strong,” she said.
“My grandma would be like ‘Tiffany why are you ashamed you were shot in the face?’ ‘do you know that I was shot in the face? If you met me on the street and you saw me smile, would you know I was shot in the face or would you think I did drugs or bad hygiene?” Nemec said.
It’s because she’s afraid of the backlash that she could face. “Society doesn’t think that. they think the worst in people,” said Nemec. “I haven’t smiled in 13 years.”
13 years later, she’s still trying to get her smile back.
Tiffany says that she’s seen dentists across Southwest Florida and while some are willing to help, but all visits have fallen through.
If you are in an abusive relationship or a survivor of domestic violence, Tiffany wants you to know that you are not alone and encourages you to seek help. The Domestic Violence Hotline phone number is 1-800-500-119.
Below are anti-human trafficking and mental health resources available to Southwest Floridians at the national and local level:
- National Human Trafficking Hotline
- Path 2 Freedom
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline
- David Lawrence Center (Collier County)
- National Alliance on Mental Illness, Collier County
- National Alliance on Mental Illness, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry Counties
- The National Alliance for Caregiving offers a free handbook
Circle of Care: A Guidebook for Mental Health Caregivers
- Collier County Mental Health Court
- Lee County Mental Health Court
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
- Local Support Groups: Anxiety and Depression Association of America
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Mental Health and Addiction Insurance Help)