They once called her the woman without a face. Now 15 years after her abusive boyfriend shot her in the face with a .44 magnum revolver, Carolyn Thomas has become an inspiring figure of survival in the fight against domestic violence.
“Terrance has been saying for years, ‘If you leave me, I will kill you’. He had a gun to the right side of my temple,” Thomas says.
After 15 surgeries and countless hours of rehab to rebuild her face, Thomas has devoted her life to helping others after the most traumatic event of her life.
“So it took away my right eye, my nose, my upper lip, my left jaw and some teeth,” Thomas says.
Thomas is now the most recognizable face of domestic violence. She has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Larry King Live and has been featured in dozens of other publications.
Thomas and her team of doctors were featured in a 2006 documentary Plastic Surgery Before and After: Reconstructing Carolyn Thomas. But all the stardom came at a painful price.
“There was a gun he had, a Magnum .44. I just had put it in a shoebox while he was in prison. I didn’t even think about it. There was a gun and he had, a Magnum 44. I just had put it in a shoebox while he was in prison. I don’t even think about the gun. For some reason, he knew where it was,” Thomas says.
On December 5, 2003, Carolyn’s mother and aunt went to get food leaving her in the apartment with her then boyfriend Terrence Kelly. He left – but came back full of rage.
“He shot in the ceiling first, and then into the floor of the apartment the second time and the third time he shot my mother in the abdomen area,” Thomas explains.
At the time, Janice Reeves was trying to calm Kelly down. She paid for this with her life. But Kelly wasn’t done.
“He took me into the living room and shot me in the face at point-blank,” Thomas says.
During his trial, Kelly claimed he smoked something that made him hallucinate as the reason for the crime. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Carolyn also received a life sentence when she woke up in the hospital.
“The nurse comes in and says, ‘It’s time to change your bandages’. And so, when she took the bandages out, everybody….everybody in the room gasped. Seeing my face….it was just…I was just shocked,” Thomas says.
Now her mission is to tell her story and help domestic violence victims. This year is especially important because she is facing more surgeries in December and March, which will be part of the new documentary Facing Forward: Carolyn Thomas 15 Years Later.
“I wanna show women that you can be strong and you could be courageous,” Thomas says.
The movie is produced by Mary Glynn, a Waco native and California-based film and television producer. She wrote and directed the first documentary for the Discovery Health Channel in 2006. Now she is heading the follow-up – an update on Carolyn’s life and the additional surgeries she faces.
“It feels good knowing that when I go out to give a speech or knowing when I go out and do the march once a year in October, I feel if I can just touch one person, I’ve done my job,” Thomas says.
The documentary has a fundraising campaign on GoFundMe called “Carolyn Thomas Documentary 2019″. You can donate to the film, which is set to premiere in October 2019.