To this day, I am unable to concentrate, which prevents me from finding a job and participating in many social activities, much less take pleasure in the simple activities, such as reading a book — something that I used to enjoy as an avid reader. I have also lost my sense of smell. I cannot taste anything. Eating is no longer pleasurable.
HERRIMAN — AshLee Bambrough, who admits she likes to take pictures of her friends and family, got a new camera for Christmas.
But the biggest present AshLee and her family got this year was AshLee herself.
"That's the best gift we could have gotten is to have AshLee with us," her father, Jon Bambrough, said Monday.
A little less than six months ago, AshLee found herself in a hospital bed for six days with a skull fracture and other severe injuries to her face and back after prosecutors say her boyfriend pushed her out of a moving vehicle traveling 65 mph.
AshLee suffered brain damage and today still suffers spells of short-term memory loss, dizziness and headaches. She has at least two more surgeries ahead of her, including one with a plastic surgeon to fix the scars on her face as well as removing pieces of gravel still embedded in her head from impacting the asphalt road. She already has had pea and corn-sized rocks removed from her face.
Looking at the 23-year-old today, however, her recovery has been nothing short of remarkable. Her long hair covers most of the scarring on her face and forehead. She uses long sleeves to cover her badly broken left hand, which is still covered with bruises and will require another surgery.
Emotionally, AshLee and her family are also making strides to move forward. Part of that healing has been through becoming advocates in the fight against domestic violence.
Because her case is still pending in Davis County's 2nd District Court, AshLee and her father were advised not to speak specifically about the incident that almost killed her.
But according to charging documents and a victim impact statement she filed with the court on July 2, AshLee's boyfriend, Brandon Sloper, 25, was driving her to work in Layton when he decided he didn't want her working there anymore.
Sloper "did not want to let the victim go to work at her job because she would be working around and serving racial minorities," the charges state.
While they were driving, Sloper allegedly assaulted AshLee inside the vehicle, including breaking her finger. She tried to get out of the truck several times at safe locations but he wouldn't let her, according to the charges.
Finally, Sloper pushed her out of the vehicle on state Route 193, investigators say.
"I sustained significant injuries including skull fractures, hemorrhage in my brain, a broken hand, and multiple abrasions, lacerations and road rash that resulted in significant blood loss and brain damage," AshLee said in her victim impact statement.
Other motorists and bystanders who saw AshLee hit the ground called 911 as Sloper drove off.
"To this day, I am unable to concentrate, which prevents me from finding a job and participating in many social activities, much less take pleasure in the simple activities, such as reading a book — something that I used to enjoy as an avid reader. I have also lost my sense of smell. I cannot taste anything. Eating is no longer pleasurable," she wrote.
Sloper was charged Sept. 30 with kidnapping and aggravated assault, both second-degree felonies with domestic violence enhancers. Prosecutors say Sloper also had a prior domestic-related incident. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for Jan. 6.
AshLee took out a protective order against Sloper about a week after the incident.
As a way of helping to deal with what happened, AshLee's younger sister started a Facebook page called "Team AshLee." Together with her sister, AshLee has sold T-shirts on the page. On the back of each shirt is a picture of ribbon and the words, "Real men don't hit women."
All of the money collected through the sale of the shirts — about $1,300 — was donated to the Davis County Safe Harbor women's shelter.
It was after the incident that other women started coming up to AshLee to tell her how they, too, have been victims of domestic violence.
"Before it happened to me, I don't remember paying attention to it as much," she said.
But after the recent beating death of a 45-year-old woman in Murray, allegedly by her live-in her boyfriend, AshLee said she decided she couldn't wait for her case to be finished in court before he spoke up to help others trapped in abusive relationships.
"It just makes me sick to think someone could do that to someone. And after being through it, it just makes me, like, hurt for her family, cause I knew what her family went through. I'm very grateful to be alive but I can't imagine being in that situation. I feel so bad for her family," she said.
Nine times in 2011, police in Utah investigated a homicide in which the alleged attacker was a spouse or significant other, according to statistics compiled by the Deseret News. Of the five homicides the Unified Police Department investigated this year, all but one were the result of domestic violence committed by either a spouse, family member or roommate.
Police in Utah also investigated six domestic-violence related murder-suicides during 2011.
In AshLee's situation, she said her boyfriend was very possessive and controlling for three years. But at the time, she didn't see it.
"Now that I look back, the weirdest things would set him off," she said.
"He tried to control what I wore, where I worked, how I looked, who my friends were, and he attempted to cut me off from my family. I now realize that these are actions of an abusive man," she said in court documents.
But after each incident of abuse, he would come back the next day asking for forgiveness.
"When he'd start playing the nice guy again, I'd think, 'Maybe I did do something wrong. Maybe he was just trying to protect me. Maybe this, maybe that.' Honestly, now that I look back, I don't know what made me stay," she said.
Jon Bambrough said he was unaware of the abuse that was happening to his daughter.
"When he was around us, he was Mr. Nice Guy all the time. He would avoid us and keep her from us. He'd make up excuses not be around us," he said.
Now, AshLee hopes her story will help others who are trapped in abusive relationships, or may be in an abusive relationship and not even recognize it, to seek help.
"If you have any doubt in your mind that he is not treating you perfectly like you should be treated, maybe take a step back, maybe talk to people around you and see what they think. Maybe take a step back and take a look at the situation, and maybe see if you would put yourself through that," she said.
If a woman is afraid to seek help, AshLee said there are women's shelters across the state ready to help.
"It's been hard on the whole family. I don't know if we'll trust anybody again," her father admitted. "We'll try to forgive and forget, but I don't know if we can."
For those who are afraid of a former or estranged spouse or fear there may be violence, there are several hotlines available, including the Utah Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-897-LINK (5465), or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).