The Guardian UK is currently running a series called My Experience where survivors share their unique experiences, Christy Sims reveals how her "controlling" and "manipulative" boyfriend threw acid in her face because he suspected she was going to break up with him. Read her tragic story after the cut...
"It was about 2pm on a Sunday in April 2013. I was in my kitchen, texting friends to ask for their addresses. In 12 days I was getting my master’s degree in counselling and I was sending out invitations to family and friends to my graduation party.
My boyfriend, Andrew, called out to me from the bathroom. He said: “Come bring me a towel. There’s water on the floor.”
As I walked down the hallway, I could see the door was open and he was sliding in a pool of water while holding a bowl in his hands. I stopped in my tracks. “What are you doing?” I asked. “Where did that water come from? Why are you holding a bowl?” He stepped out of the water and stood in front of me, staring at me. Then he splashed the liquid from the bowl into my face.
“What was that?” I asked. “What did you just do?” I was confused. Then my eyes started burning.
I ran to the sink, screaming. Andrew didn’t say a word. He stood behind me, watching. That’s the last thing I remember seeing with my own two eyes. Much later I would find out that Andrew had thrown sulphuric acid – drain cleaner – at my face.
He called the emergency services as I made my way down the hall. In shock, I slipped to the floor. I didn’t know it at the time but the operator on the phone was telling Andrew to rinse me off with water. He never did. Instead, he told me: “They said if I rinse you off, it’s going to ignite the chemical. Just sit there.” He watched me burn for 13 minutes while we waited for the ambulance.
I can only describe the pain as like sitting inside a fire. The acid had covered my face, chest and arms, where it burned down to the bottom epidermis, below my nerves. When the paramedics got there, they stripped me and took me outside to get rinsed by the torrential rain. They gave me morphine and put me in the ambulance. I don’t remember anything else.
I woke up in a hospital burns unit two months later. I couldn’t see. My eyelids were sewn shut. I couldn’t open my mouth or stretch my arms out. I couldn’t talk, walk, bathe or feed myself. I faced months of reconstructive surgery and skin grafts. When I eventually saw my face, I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t even make out where my features began and ended. I was stunned, and remember joking, “I am seriously jacked up.” It was too much to take in.
My family told me that Andrew had been harassing them, obsessively asking about my face and saying he would take care of me no matter what. He told them that he had slipped and fallen, and that’s how I had got acid on me. I knew it wasn’t an accident and I knew it would be hard to prove, because he was a clever man. He had never been violent with me before but he was controlling and manipulative.
Over the next four months, I got my sight back in one eye and two months after the attack, I was walking again. The first thing I did was go to the local police department near my home in McDonough, Georgia and file a report. They didn’t pursue it. They said they had questioned me when I’d got to hospital and I’d said it was an accident. I don’t remember that.
Months went by and finally I went to the prosecutor’s office and told the assistant district attorney my story. She believed me and reopened the case. In July 2015, it finally went to trial. Andrew was found guilty of two counts of aggravated battery and one count of aggravated assault. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison, with 20 to serve.
I set up a foundation to support victims of domestic violence. Acid attacks are a global issue – it’s unusual in the US, but less so elsewhere, for example in Bangladeshi I believe Andrew attacked me because he knew I was going to break up with him that weekend, something I decided to do when my 13-year-old son told me he felt scared around him. But the one thing he was trying to destroy – my beauty – had nothing to do with my face. You can’t burn integrity, character or courage. What he thought he would destroy, he never even touched. "