HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC)—A Henrico County mother who was shot in the face by her husband has a special message for other women in abusive relationships.
Star Austin was just 29 when her husband held a Glock .40 to her head and pulled the trigger. It happened three years ago this month, as she held her 1-year-old baby in her daughter's bedroom.
It's a miracle Austin is alive, let alone well enough to get a new hairdo. She's being pampered at the Hair Studios on Libbie after surviving the unthinkable.
Now, Austin is using her story to reach out to others.
"He shot me in my left temple lobe area, and that shattered the left side of my face," she said. "I'm very grateful; I can't do nothing but smile."
On Feb. 22, 2011, Austin's high school sweetheart and husband of eight years shot her in the head while she was holding their 1-year-old daughter. Their two other daughters saw the whole thing. Austin's husband, Damond, left the house while their oldest child called 911.
"She's my angel, and I just feel like I owe her so much because of what she did," Austin said. "I owe her a lot."
Austin should have died, but she says that day she truly began to live, as she was finally able to escape her abuser.
"I look to my God and I thank him, because I honestly feel that he's put certain things in front of me to tell me, 'You need to go.'"
With a prosthetic eye, artificial jaw, 11 surgeries behind her and the bullet still lodged in her throat, Austin is reaching out to other domestic violence victims.
"It burns like someone literally has a lighter sitting next to my neck," she said.
Debbi Marks owns the Hair Studios on Libbie and has seen too many clients who have been abused.
"It's a big issue and we've got to let these women know we are here," Marks said. "It's not economical; it's in prominent neighborhoods, as well as low income neighborhoods, and we hear it all."
The salon is now giving battered women makeovers, haircuts and helping them prepare for the work force.
The Hair Stuidos on Libbie is also teaming up with the Richmond Police Department to collect old cell phones, which will be traded in for money to support women's shelters.
Marks wants to send a message that there is help for those in situations like Austin's.
"They're not alone at all, and there are people waiting," Austin said. "We're waiting to help you."
Austin is now divorced from her ex-husband. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison without parole. She says she's forgiven him, but to this day he has never apologized for shooting her.
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