Photo Essay: From broken and beaten to strong and free

Lauren Brown, 20, poses with a photo of herself in her apartment. Brown hid the physical abuse she was subjected to by her ex-boyfriend. Instead of attempting suicide again, she decided to report to the police department on her first day of junior year at WKU. Brown recently went back to her natural brown hair color, because her ex told her that she was less attractive with it. “This is who I am,” Brown said.

Ivy Ceballo

Some information in this story was provided through a personal essay written by Lauren Brown.

During her freshman year at WKU, Lauren Brown said she met someone who she thought was the man of her dreams. The pair met through volleyball on campus, and she said they instantly clicked.

“We had so much in common it was like he was a boy version of me,” Brown wrote in a personal essay.

While she could tell he was older, she said she didn’t know his age at the time. She would later find out he was 30, 12 years older than her at the time but she said that didn’t bother her.

Brown said they spent all their time together and explored new hobbies.

“My life was perfect,” Brown wrote.

About six months into the relationship, she said things changed. Her perfect match started to get angry over her outfits, who she spent time with or even who she followed on social media. The arguments started small with yelling and name calling but eventually escalated to physical abuse.

“I can still remember all the moments I got hit, all the feelings I had and how all I wanted was for it to stop,” Brown wrote.

Brown said the abuse ranged from tearing her clothes, being shoved to the floor, a belt to the back or being choked. Still, she stayed with him out of love. She said he had apologized every time, so she thought he didn’t mean to hurt her.

When she visited her parents she said she would make up stories to explain the marks and bruises.

“I defended him in all I did, only to go back to being beaten,” Brown wrote.

One day Brown decided she couldn’t take it anymore and decided to stand up for her- self. She said she filed an emergency protective order against him. He violated it three times.

Due to violating the order, she said he was arrested, and she had to attend court to set a punishment. Brown said this was a difficult

time for her because of the previous attachments. On the day of court she was nervous to see him again.

“However, I felt support in all those with me and all those in my life who supported me,” Brown wrote. “I am no longer held down by my abuser. I am free.”

Today, Brown said she is stronger from the experience but still struggles on many days. She explained how she thinks this encounter will help her realize how powerful she is.

“Stay strong and break the silence against domestic violence,” Brown wrote.

Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1(800)799-7233 (SAFE) or visit for 24/7 help if facing any similar situation.