Still She Rises
Warning, the story and photos in this article are very graphic
This was originally posted on Odyssey Online.
Charis Gregg's ex-boyfriend beat her nearly to death and left her for dead on her kitchen floor. He presumptively expected her to die. He closed the blinds, locked the door and stole her car, jewelry, glasses and money. It turns out, Charis is a fighter. She fought like hell. She fought for nearly 33 hours. Her father found her lying unconscious on her kitchen floor in a pool of blood, surrounded by her demolished things. He thought she was dead. He said something and Charis awoke and started freaking out, saying, "Don't hurt me anymore, get out of my house." She was screaming that at the paramedics while they were peeling her off her floor since she was stuck to the dried blood after lying there for 33 hours.
Days later, she woke up in the hospital. She looked around and realized she was in the hospital. "In my brain, I was asking questions like why am I here? I said out loud 'Brent did this' and my dad shook his head, yes," said Charis. She proceeded to ask if he was in jail and her father told her yes. "I remember that safe feeling that I've never felt since I met him. I've never felt safe anywhere, doing anything and knowing he was in jail, I was at peace," said Charis.
Her dad showed her a picture of how he found her — just her face. "I remember there was blood all over and there were scratches and the realization he did that to me," said Charis. Her dad then showed her Brent's mugshot. She asked what happened to his face and her dad laughed and told her, "We're pretty sure you did that." Charis questioned, "I fought back?" She said,"I always knew in the past it would make it worse if I fought back. Then it hit me, I knew in that moment, I knew he was trying to kill me and I fought like hell." Charis said her hands showed her fight - the right hand was mangled from defensive wounds but the left hand was somehow crushed by Brent. Charis was not expected to live when she arrived at the hospital. If she did live, she was expected to have brain damage. Turns out she is a fighter and proved everyone wrong.
Looking at the photos of the scene, she was shocked. "I think he thought he thought I was dead and I can't believe there was so much blood. I can't believe he left me like that and stole my things (i can't see without my glasses), the alarm was still broken from when he assaulted me in July." Charis continued, "I never woke up after he beat me and I don't remember any of it - I'm glad I don't, it would be harder if I did remember. They found the pan he beat me in the head with, he completely broke the handle off of it and it's all dented in. I had 3 brain bleeds, a broken nose, an injury to my shoulder, and then two mangled and crushed hands," said Charis. She is also diabetic and has an insulin pump. Her blood sugar levels, left unattended to for 33 hours, could have caused her to die, let alone with her other injuries. She was in two casts when she was released from the hospital. She wasn't even able to feed herself.
Charis is the mother of two beautiful children from her previous marriage (to be clear, her ex-husband is not the perpetrator) — her son is nine and her daughter is two. Charis said she fought for her babies.
Charis has been shocked and overwhelmed by the number of people donating to her, praying for her and reaching out to her. While there has been so much love and support, there has also been the opposite. Charis sees comments online asking, "What did she do to piss him off," "Why did she stay with him," or "she's probably crazy." In an effort to help spread the awareness of domestic assault and give a voice to the victims, we are going to tell the whole story of their chaotic relationship. For those unaware, domestic violence is a huge problem both in states like Oklahoma and at a national level. In 2015, Oklahoma, where Charis lives, ranked third for domestic violence.
According to the information from 2015, police answer 120 calls per week in regards to domestic violence. A 10-year study by the Oklahoma Domestic Violence Fatality Review Task Force found 41% of all homicides in Oklahoma were linked to domestic violence. In Oklahoma, 33% of police time is spent responding to domestic violence calls. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, on average, in the U.S. nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner. During the year, this means more than 10 million men and women are victims of domestic violence. One in three women and one in four men have been victims of some sort of physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
A Sweet Start
"I knew Brent for years — he went to HS with my sister, we had been friends and we talked a lot on Facebook," Charis said. Charis said there were never any inappropriate conversations. He always reached out to her, checked on her and was very sweet to her. Charis said, "You normally don't have guys asking you how you're doing. After Elon was born, since I was not with my ex-husband any longer, Brent was the first one there and messaged me and asking what I needed." Charis remembers the relationship between the two was always joking and playful. They had fun talking to each other. April 2015, she invited him to a concert. She said he was the epitome of fun and charming. From that point on, they were together. Isolation and Humiliation
One of the secondary feelings Charis had after waking up in the hospital and knowing he was in jail, was, "All of Tulsa is going to hate me." No victim should ever have those thoughts. The victim should never feel at fault but that is typically what an abuser does to a victim. How did this beautiful young woman get to the point of waking up in the hospital fighting for her life? And more importantly, how did this young, vibrant mother question her own fault in a situation that was not her fault. Most abusers have manipulative, sociopathic, narcissistic or psychopathic tendencies. They massively manipulate victims to silence, isolate and humiliate them. They find any means to hurt, exploit or demean their intimate partners. They tend to divert the reality of the situation by deflecting responsibility.
"I'm so sick of fighting with people and standing up for myself and no one will understand what I went through for just short of two years," said Charis. "Brent did everything he could to try and break me and destroy my life. I've never met a person like that, it was like he had nothing else to do." Brent caused Charis to lose two jobs. The first, a job she had for four years with Dr. Zoellner's office. He made her life miserable and attempted to take any stability or support away from her. He turned her boss and friends completely against her. He would create fake text messages and make them look like they were from her. He cut her off from everyone she knew. "It's like he lived on it," Charis said.
"One time, he recorded us having sex and sent that to my brother thinking it was my ex-husband Micah — it was Brent's birthday weekend. He drank and did drugs all that weekend," Charis said. "Everything he was was disgusting to me- his lifestyle, the people he hung out with, it upsets me that people talked so horribly about me but now I am realizing they were really shady people." One of Brent's best friends had a girlfriend who was particularly mean to Charis. She would post things on social media, tagging Brent, calling out Charis, making fun of her and bullying her. What's even worse is this person claims to be a victim of domestic violence herself. It just solidifies the current bullying culture within social media. These grown women and men don't realize the extent of the abuse, the reality of the situation or the harm they are also contributing to victims.
Charis said he would tell his friends she was constantly nagging him about girls he was hanging out with or being a crazy girlfriend. Charis remembered, "I found a used condom in his drawer just months after we started dating but he always had great elaborate stories to cover everything up. I knew I wanted out so bad but I couldn't escape him. You don't know how to start or how to get out — he was crazy and he would not let me go." Charis said, "It was even worse if I didn't talk to him - he would find me or find a way to talk to me," she said. "For some reason, I've always loved brent — I don't know why, he's not real, he lies about everything, he doesn't have goals, there's nothing there and that was really hard for me to learn." Charis continued, "I thought I was so in love with him at first but then I realized the person I thought he was or could be — was all a lie."
Charis gets so many questions asking why she didn't get out, why she talked to him, why she let him in her house. They don't realize how difficult it is to get out of an abusive relationship. "You couldn't leave someone like him, he doesn't go away," she said. Charis explains, "You're not always thinking this time it's the time he tries to kill me and there's no reason. I know I'm not to blame for everything that happened but it's not as easy as you think it is to get out." She continued, "When you mess with someone like Brent, he tries to ruin you."
She cried as she remembers Brent sending things to Micah, her ex-husband, things that made Micah want full custody of the kids to keep them away from Brent and the toxicity. "He tried to get everything taken away from me," she said.
Brent was 33, living at home with his mother. He did not work, he lied to everyone about having a job or the things he had done for work in the past. Charis remembers, "We had a group message between Brent, me and his mother — he sent her naked pictures of me and she never said anything about those or anything else he did." She said his mother had seen the damage Brent did to Charis' car, her house and even saw the bloody picture of Charis lying on the floor, unconscious. "His mom just let him continue living in her house, he'd come home at all hours of the night drunk or on drugs." She says she always wondered if he was violent to his mother, if she was scared of him too, because of her lack of response to the situation. Charis said, "You think of her as this sweet pastor's wife but she has helped create this monster and she just continues to enable him and never attempts to get him help."
Charis said she always scared he would post nude photos of her on Facebook because he did that once with his ex-girlfriend. On his exes birthday, he posted nude photos of her, lying and saying she was a prostitute on a website called Backpage. Charis said she couldn't believe her eyes as she would watch him make all of this stuff up and watch everyone believe him.
After the first protective orders were filed, Charis reached out to his exes. "I never knew what he had done to anyone else, I always had it in my mind that I was the only one he had done this to - he made me believe he was not that type of man and he was so sorry," she said. She remembers after each violent episode, he would promise he'd change - go to church, get sober and go to counseling. Charis said she talked to each ex and heard so many similarities in their stories. "He convinced each of us we were crazy - had an elaborate story for everything we've said — then you hear their stories and they're so much alike, you realize it was a pattern," Charis said. "Girls he dated were really good women - they didn't have crazy backgrounds. They were social and enjoyed going out with friends but were good people." One of his exes is a practicing physician. She just had his baby. He told his friends that she had a miscarriage. A few of his really close friends knew what he was capable, they knew he had been arrested in the past for violence against women. She said, "It always just bothered me with his friends because they knew Brent had been arrested for the stuff he did to me, they knew he left this woman while she was pregnant and they just continued to enable him."
"His friends were really mean to me for a long time," she said. "He would post stuff about me on Facebook making fun of me and all of these people would be laughing and liking it and making mean comments. He would post intimate text messages or conversations — the kind of things you share in a relationship, feelings and emotions you expected to remain private in your relationship."
He was so used to lying. He didn't work. He could never stop partying. He lived with his mother - she gave him money, she bought him cars. He has two sons with his ex-wife and has never paid child support. He lied about the baby with the doctor and refused to offer any support or even admit it was his.
Charis said he could command a crowd and flip his personality on and off at the drop of a dime. "He'd be saying horrible things to me and I've seen him shut it off so fast when someone walks up and go back to happy Brent that makes everyone laugh," she remembers.
In February of 2016, Charis filed a protective order against Brent. Regardless of that, she said he always found her. His numbers were blocked, his social media was blocked but he always found her or found a way to contact her. She remembers hiding in the corner of her porch to smoke a cigarette, looking up and seeing him standing there. This was a continual theme with Brent. She couldn't escape him.
One July night, things escalated worse than before. Charis was at a local pub with her friends. Brent walked in and sat at the table. She said, "He scared me, told me I was leaving with him and I didn't want to cause a scene." She continued, "I thought maybe tonight would be a good night." As soon as they got to Charis house, he walked into her bedroom, grabbed her phone and hand and unlocked her iPhone. Charis said she told him to get out of her house but he just laughed at her and sat on the bed. She remembers going outside, "I sat outside for a long time. you go through the stuff in your head - if I go to a neighbors I don't want to involve them, I don't want to go to my moms - there was a fear of him hurting someone I love in any way." She told him to leave and told him she was going to set off the alarm. He laughed at her again. She set off the alarm and then he threw her phone at the wall and shattered it. "I told him I couldn't cancel the alarm now because he broke my phone and that is the only way to talk to the company and cancel the alarm," Charis said. He grabbed the alarm and shattered it. "Then he grabbed me by the back of my hair, threw me to the floor and started kicking me. That was when the police showed up and he started his fake crying, begging me to tell the police he wasn't there, promising to pay for everything he broke," she said. He broke her TV, her cell phone, her computer and her alarm. She said she laughed and said, "Like everything you've paid for you broke before?" He let her up, ran off and she went outside to the police. She thought he went out the back door but the police found him hiding in her attic. They arrested him that night for a violation of a protective order.
She said she hated using that because he would never go away. "It consumes your life - my attorney told me to fill out a police report every time he contacted me. He would contact me every single day somehow." She lost her second job because she was having to spend her lunch hours filling out police reports and then got subpoenaed to testify which took her out of work. "I understand they had to fire me, they were running a business, but it really sucked because that gave me a safe place - he wouldn't come inside there," she said.
When Charis had to testify against him in regards to the July incident, things got ugly. "He would send people to drive by my house, post harassing things on Facebook and drive other people's cars by my house constantly - the same cars, continually driving by really slow outside my house," she said. "He put out a craigslist add on missed connection saying, 'To Charis, we're gonna make you pay, this is war, you'll pay for what you've.'" She said the police couldn't do much with that and it was just filed as intimidation of a witness because she was testifying the next day. Charis said she knows it was him trying to weasel his way back in to get me to drop the charges. She said, "He told me I ruined his life, his family's life, his mom's life because she was going to lose her house from bailing him out." One of his friends sent her a threatening text saying she would be held accountable for her actions. He pulled others in trying to scare me or intimidate me.
The night of the Assault
Charis doesn't remember the details of the assault but she remembers the hours leading up to the event. he day it happened. She was out for a friends' birthday at a lounge in downtown Tulsa. She said she remembers caving and responding to Brent's messages. "Sometimes Brent and I would text back and forth because as long as you keep him happy, he's fine. It was my way of trying to avoid more chaos," she said. She was sitting and talking with her friends, she looked up and Brent was at the bar. She told her friends, it was her sign to go home. They walked her to her car to make sure she got there safe and told Charis to text once she made it home. She said she did in fact, let her friend know she made it home. That's the last thing she remembers. "I'll never know why- there's never an excuse to beat the shit out of a woman but I'll never know what pushed him to that level of mad," she said. She remembers her friend's husband going up to him at the bar and asking him why he was there. Brent said he was there to pay for Charis' drinks. "That's funny because he's never paid for my drinks, ever. I don't know if that's what made him mad because it embarrassed him," she said.
On the Run
After he beat Charis and left her for dead, he stole her car. Her PikePass account shows him going through the toll around 2:30 a.m. So he would have assaulted her most likely around 1 a.m. He initially ran from the police. He deleted all social media accounts, reportedly stole a gun from a friend's house and hid out. He finally came back home to his mom's house and she took him to jail. He assumed he would be able to do what he always does and just bond out. Charis said, "He's been arrested three times in the last year - he'd turn himself in, have the bail bondsmen there to bail him out. The longest he spent in jail was a day from his arrest in July."
Healing and Next Steps
It's now March. Charis is trying to heal both emotionally and physically and get back to being a functioning mother to her kids again. Luckily, her children have a wonderful father and stepmother to care for them. "I love Micah and Brooklyn - they take amazing care of my children. I think how lucky I am that my children have a stepmom who loves my children like her own," she said. Charis said her children give her peace and hope - they calm her through this crazy period.
"I remember trying to hold back my tears when I saw my kids in person for the first time. I had only been able to facetime them while I was in the hospital," she said. Charis said her children do not know what happened to her and they plan on keeping it that way. She remembers her son met Brent one time when they went to his mother's house for Christmas. She said, "I remember him asking me when we were going to get married and it set in that I need to get out and stay away because i didn't want that for me or my kids."
After Brent was arrested in July, Charis and her ex-husband decided it was not safe for the kids to stay overnight in her house sine he would just show up. She said they took certain precautions to make sure they were safer. "I don't think he would have hurt them but i didn't think he would try and kill me either and he did, he's just so angry and i don't think his anger stops with me," she said. "The police had asked me in July, do you tink he'd kill you and my response was not on purpose and the cop looked at me really funny asking what I meant." Charis explained, "He gets so angry he just explodes, then he does stuff and he snaps out of it. I thought he would get so angry he'd do something he couldn't undo but I look at that different now — he knew what he was doing, he tried to kill me — you can't see those pictures and think that was an accident, he took his time," she cried.
She is also facing the beginning of the court process. Brent had his first bond hearing on March 1. Thankfully, the judge ruled he will continue to be held without bond for the safety of Charis. She said she did not worry about him getting bond. "My wonderful detectives will be testifying and everyone will be giving their reasons why he should not get bail. After seeing those pictures, if they ever gave someone bail after seeing a picture of seeing a girl like that there's something wrong," she said. The trial is set to start in the beginning of April. H's been going to court since May of 2016 in regards to his violence against Charis. He is facing 10 felonies.
Charis expressed such overwhelming appreciation for the detectives and police officers who assisted along this entire journey.
"Tulsa Police Department and Broken Arrow Police Department have been so amazing and comforting and I hate when people say the system failed me because it wasn't the system - Brent is to blame and the police can only do so much, they can't just arrest him when stuff hadn't gone to court yet," Charis said. She said Detective Soergel in particular has made her feel safe, reassured and confident in the justice system. "I thank God for them and all of the people who have prayed for me, donated money for me or offered words of support." Charis said it overwhelmed her knowing how many people in Tulsa were praying for her. She said she knows there were whole churches praying for her. Charis said the monetary donations through the GoFundMe account have been a godsend. Charis didn't have insurance at the time this happened in December. She said bills didn't get paid in December because everyone was focused on her recovering and she was the one who always paid them. On top of hospital bills, she was behind on bills with late fees, had to replace the phone Brent stole, purchase keys and locks in her house, physical therapy twice a week and more. Charis has regained use of one of her hands but the other is still very limited. She is not released to work quite yet. She is on a long recovery to physical and emotional healing. She wants every person to know the money that has been donated is beyond appreciated. She said, "With that money, I can focus on getting better and healing, just working through all of this and getting through court then I can go back to work and hopefully have a working hand."
Charis' Advice to Victims
"I get a lot of messages that start out with 'I'm sorry to bother you,' but I want them to know no one is ever bothering me, ever. I am here for you, I am here to listen, I am here to give the best advice I can, I am here to comfort you. Anyone can message me, I promise I'm not that scary," Charis said. When asked what her advice is to other victims, she said, "You have to reach out to people. I shut people off little by little, I was secluded, I pushed my friends and family away because I didn't want them to see what i was going through," she said. "I was embarrassed this was my life and I was allowing this to continue to happen." She said she had one girl she confided in who encouraged her and supported her, but then she got to a point where she lied about it all because she didn't want to believe this was what she was living.
"When I woke up in the hospital, I thought all of Tulsa is going to hate me mainly because of all the people that loved him, then when I saw how many people reached out to me, loved me, and supported me, I was relieved," said Charis. She said to other victims, "You can't go through something like this and not have people surround you that love you but it has to be your choice, you have to want to get out and youhave to get help." She said you can't do it alone, you can't leave that situation and expect things to be okay. She said she is now counseling and it is helping her greatly. She said having people surrounding her and loving her is the only way she is making it now.
Charis embodies strength. She is a fighter. She was knocked down time and time again and still she rises.