On the morning of October 10, 2005, just three weeks after Yvette's protective order was lifted, Hargrave showed up at the cell phone store where his wife worked. Yvette was busy helping customers when, suddenly, Hargrave began pouring clear liquid from a soda bottle onto her head and upper body.
Yvette says she was so focused on not causing a commotion in front of the customers, she didn't realize she was covered in gasoline. As Yvette ran out the back door into the parking lot, Hargrave followed her. "He caught me, grabbed me, and I felt something on my back," Yvette says. "The next thing I know, I was on fire."
Frantically, Yvette ran back into the store covered in flames. "I just went to the sink, and I began to hose my face, and I remember thinking to myself that my face was melting," she says.
When help arrived, Yvette was rushed to the emergency room. Hargrave was arrested and charged with attempted murder.
Yvette spent several months in the hospital and endured 17 surgeries before returning home. Today, she continues to struggle with extreme physical pain and the emotional shock of being burned alive. The burnt skin on Yvette's arms has contracted, making it difficult for her to move them. Lack of mobility makes everyday tasks like brushing teeth and getting dressed extremely difficult.
Yvette's ears melted during the attack and she lost an earlobe. To prevent scar tissue from forming on her face, she wears a plastic face mask 23 hours a day. She also has to wear pressure garments—tight clothes that keep the skin from becoming bumpy. Some days, Yvette says it's just too painful to get the garments over her arms.
Despite the scars, Yvette maintains a positive attitude about her new appearance. "I don't care what people think when they look at my face," she says. "I know what it feels like to be pretty, so if they don't like it, that's too bad."
Yvette says that while she was enduring Hargrave's verbal and physical abuse, she felt embarrassed, ashamed and guilty—most of all for exposing her young daughter to the situation. "Children are innocent, and they don't deserve to see those images," Yvette says.
"So often what happens is you see this happening in your own family and you say, 'I will never be this kind of woman,'" Oprah says. "Then she grows up and she ends up with somebody who does the same thing to her, because that's what she knows."
Yvette hopes that by telling her story on The Oprah Winfrey Show, her daughter will learn from her mistakes and be less likely to fall victim to abuse.
Sheryl Cates, executive director of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, says many women may be in a potentially abusive relationship and not even know it. She says there are five indicators that a relationship could become violent.
- Jealousy and possessiveness
- Controlling behavior
- Verbal abuse
- Threats to harm you, your family or your pet
- Isolation from friends and family
Many of the red flags were present in Yvette's relationship. "He called me a fat beached whale," she says. "He would try to make me feel less than a human being."
Only months after being burned alive, Yvette's progress has surprised doctors. She was told to expect six to eight months of recovery time in the hospital, but she made it home in three.
Hargrave, found guilty on three counts—first-degree attempted murder, second-degree attempted murder and first-degree assault—was sentenced to life in prison. He is appealing the conviction. Does Yvette have anything she wants to tell the man accused of burning her alive? "If you don't have anything good to say," Yvette says, "don't say anything at all."
If you are involved in an abusive relationship, Oprah says it's no accident you're hearing Yvette's story. "This is a message to you today to do something about it—to let her life be an example for your life, to take her strength and her bravery and her courage and allow you to have the same."
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