Battered woman finds smile again

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GILLSVILLE, Ga. - The mangled face Julie Humphries saw when she looked in the mirror was consuming her life.

Julie Humphries holds her 9-month-old daughter Autumn at her home in Gillsville, Ga. Ms. Humphries, whose teeth were broken by her former husband, had her smile repaired by dentist Mark Sayeg as part of a program called Give Back a Smile.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Julie Humphries holds her 9-month-old daughter Autumn at her home in Gillsville, Ga. Ms. Humphries, whose teeth were broken by her former husband, had her smile repaired by dentist Mark Sayeg as part of a program called Give Back a Smile.

Afraid to show that face in public, she had become a loner since her husband kicked her in the mouth with a steel-toed boot. She dared not even reveal her mouth to her newborn daughter.

Her most natural expression - her smile - was taken away by a jealous and abusive husband. But she soon found it could be restored by talented dentists working with the Give Back a Smile program.

She arrived at dentist Mark Sayeg's Sandy Springs office in October, reluctant to show this stranger her teeth. He needed a "before" picture, but she would offer only a grimace that betrayed the slightest glimpse of her shattered mouth.

Over the next six weeks, he worked his magic, fixing her two front teeth, conducting root canals and removing damaged nerves to treat the pain on her damaged back teeth. Fillings replaced cavities, and next came veneers, which capped eight teeth.

A month later, Ms. Humphries's mouth had been transformed from a den of broken teeth into a picture-perfect smile. She had become one of the more than 550 women whose smile had been saved through the program's work.

It was started in 1999 by dentists with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry who wanted to create a network where battered women could turn for dentistry help. Now it boasts more than 700 participating dentists and 100 labs.

Gunshot wounds have been erased, broken jaws restored, years of dental neglect reversed.

"We have no limits on what we're willing to do," says Laura Kelly, a Danville, Calif., technician who is the incoming president of the dentists' association. "Our smile is our natural communication, and it is also a constant reminder of abuse. By providing this service, we're changing their whole life."

Surprisingly, they struggle to find willing patients. Women's shelters tend to be rather skeptical about the free offers for procedures that can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

For those that find out about the service, the criteria are rather stiff.

Before they start, the women have to prove they are out of the relationship and in a safe place for at least a year. They also must meet with a counselor or a domestic violence advocate who can confirm the injuries were caused by an abusive relationship.

Ms. Humphries was a perfect match.

She had married her husband when she was 16 and moved to Gillsville, about 70 miles northeast of Atlanta. Soon his emotional bullying turned physical. She broke up with him more times than she cares to remember, but each time she took him back, convincing herself it was best for their 13-year-old daughter.

He crossed the line the final time in the spring of 2005. She told him he had gone too far after he was accused of harassing another woman at the factory where they worked together. On the ride home, he tried to steer the car into a tree.

It got worse when they got inside. He started to hit her and when she fell, he didn't stop, kicking her repeatedly in the face. She stayed on the living room floor until he fell asleep.

Then she escaped, got a divorce and got her bloody face stitched up. And he got sentenced to about a year in prison.

The bruises would heal. But the mess in her mouth would not. A deep, dark depression set in and Ms. Humphries grew terrified of going out.

Her new smile changed that.

She landed a new job as a machinist at a local factory. She moved into her mother's house. She abandoned her fear of going outside, and she regained her confidence.

But her mother, Sue Morrison, said she noticed the biggest change might have come just after Ms. Humphries got her teeth fixed.

"That's the first time I had seen her smile at the baby," she said.

It still hurts Ms. Humphries to summon up the memories of what happened. She hadn't even told her dentist how her mouth got mangled until a few days ago.

But she knows she's on the right track.

"It gave me back my self-confidence I had lost," said Ms. Humphries, 32. "To have that back means everything."

At a convention in Atlanta last week, dentists and technicians from across the nation gathered to discuss the latest dental procedures and browse the newest equipment. One night, they held a ritzy banquet, and a dozen statuesque models trotted down the catwalk for a fashion show.

Then Ms. Humphries came out. She looked tentative at first. The crowd roared. Suddenly, the woman who could barely show her face in public was getting a standing ovation from a thousand dentists.

And she couldn't stop smiling.

Comments (25) Add comment
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ANGEL
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ANGEL 06/04/07 - 04:58 am
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I am very happy to see more

I am very happy to see more people to come forward to help rescue victims of abusive relationships. Any male that hits a females can not go face to face with another male and that is why they all control the females or try to. It is a crying SHAME the laws are the way they are because this man should have gotten more than ONE YEAR of Prison. But I am sure he will one day go face to face with someone that will hurt him like he did his wife. Again a reminder WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND! Thank God the young lady is safe now.

ladybdc
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ladybdc 06/04/07 - 05:15 am
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Girls keep on keeping on I

Girls keep on keeping on I myself is going through so much bs with my husband,it is more mental

CyndiCk
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CyndiCk 06/04/07 - 05:34 am
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ladybdc: The mental abuse

ladybdc: The mental abuse can be more damaging than physical abuse. Get out as soon as you can.

lezniack01
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lezniack01 06/04/07 - 07:32 am
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ladybdc, please honey, dont

ladybdc, please honey, dont let him take one more day from you.Get out! I wasted 11 years of my life and I dont want you to do the same thing. Safe Homes of Augusta will give you all the help you need as long as you are willing to help yourself.Dont wait to get out in a pine box.Get Out Now!

RogueKnight
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RogueKnight 06/04/07 - 07:43 am
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Any man who would raise a

Any man who would raise a hand (let alone a fist) to a woman deserves a taste of his own medicine.

CyndiCk
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CyndiCk 06/04/07 - 07:58 am
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You would be amazed how many

You would be amazed how many men beat up on women. I dealt with it, but never again. He got what he had coming to him. Someone killed him. So long loser!

Rose
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Rose 06/04/07 - 08:44 am
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I know a woman whose ex tried

I know a woman whose ex tried to choke her and pushed her into the coffee table. She grabbed a champayne bottle and beat the crap out of him, then she called the cops on him.He had run, so they did not get him that day. He had a warrant out for him, so she helped set up a trap to catch him. hahaha. He never got the chance to hit her again. she would have killed him.

kf2222222
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kf2222222 06/04/07 - 08:48 am
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To God be the glory!!!!

To God be the glory!!!!

shygirlj
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shygirlj 06/04/07 - 08:53 am
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one year. sad commentary on

one year. sad commentary on how we define justice.

CyndiCk
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CyndiCk 06/04/07 - 09:37 am
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Good for her Rose. I hope

Good for her Rose. I hope he's getting his [filtered word] kicked every day. Sometimes you have to make your own justice. When I fought back I was arrested for CVD. But they had to take me to the hospital first! It was pretty bad.

Rose
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Rose 06/04/07 - 09:52 am
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He has not paid one dime in

He has not paid one dime in child support.

CyndiCk
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CyndiCk 06/04/07 - 09:53 am
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Why does that not surprise me

Why does that not surprise me Rose?

JUST_ME
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JUST_ME 06/04/07 - 10:14 am
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I am so glad, you are able to

I am so glad, you are able to smile again, Julie Humphries. KEEP SMILING!!! You are free..and you have a beautiful baby and another child (don't know how many children) to smile for. Slowly but surely you will regain everything that was taken from you, emotionally....My heart goes out to you for strength. : ) And for every lady in an abusive relationship, get out while you still can. I know its hard, cause you might say I love him, or you do it for the kids....the abuse will not get better...You may love him, but it doesn't mean he loves you. If he loved you he wouldnt be hurting you. It is also not healthy for the kids to watch or be around.

FallingLeaves
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FallingLeaves 06/04/07 - 12:02 pm
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You are not alone and I am

You are not alone and I am including you in my prayers.

Additional Info
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Additional Info 06/04/07 - 01:28 pm
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From one Julie to another

From one Julie to another Julie- this story really touched me.
My ex was abusive. For the first three years, it was mental abuse-endless mindgames. I felt like the crazy one. He became physically abusive the day I told him I was leaving- and I did.

To everyone with an abusive person in your life who says they love you- actions speak louder than words. Please, love yourself and your children the right way, and get out with your life while you still can. No matter what he has said, YOU ARE lovable and YOU ARE NOT THE ONE with the problem. You WILL find someone who loves you like you truly deserve.
Thankfully, 8 yrs after leaving my ex, I married a gentle and loving man who earned my respect before he earned my love. It will happen to you to- in time. Start the process by getting out. You CAN do it!
For everyone who wants to leave or already did- here's a 'theme song' for us all. Song is "Leaving You" by LINA.

Drama Mamma
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Drama Mamma 06/04/07 - 01:38 pm
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I totally gree Just me its

I totally gree Just me its not good for the children to see and will cause them to grow up to be abusers themselves and if a man loves you he would never put his hands on you any other way but with love and gentleness....

unknown1
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unknown1 06/04/07 - 02:35 pm
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A beautiful smile for a
Unpublished

A beautiful smile for a beautiful lady...Keep on smiling!!!!!!

CyndiCk
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CyndiCk 06/04/07 - 04:23 pm
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Don't you just love it when

Don't you just love it when the story has a happy ending?

misscj0123
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misscj0123 06/04/07 - 04:45 pm
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I hate abusive people.

I hate abusive people.

CyndiCk
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CyndiCk 06/04/07 - 04:48 pm
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Don't worry misscj: They get

Don't worry misscj: They get theirs in the end.

adam
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adam 06/04/07 - 06:18 pm
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Some women deserve a beating

Some women deserve a beating or worse. How about that crack-smokin mama that ran over a bunch of kids in D.C. today.

curly123053
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curly123053 06/04/07 - 07:50 pm
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Adam, you are right about

Adam, you are right about some women, but those that are victims of domestic violence do not deserve the abuse they get. I was one of few male domestic violence volunteers and I have seen dozens of women treated as though they were a possession or property of their husband or man. Any man who would treat a woman as anything other than an equal partner in life does not deserve a good woman. I have heard all the excuses and I learned there are some pathetic men out there.

Redibear
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Redibear 06/05/07 - 11:27 am
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I may have ended up in prison

I may have ended up in prison myself, the first time this bastard put his hand on me and with his feet! I would have dropped him where he stood. He abused her because he could get away with it and only served 1 year in prison would have been an insult to me for the abuse. Some women take this type of abuse and some want, I am one who want. I will not allow a man who thinks he is going to raise me as if my parents did not do a good job with me. He is a poor miserable excuse for a man who brain is about size of a flea. This Sh-t ball will meet his match one day!

LBenedict
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LBenedict 06/05/07 - 12:10 pm
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God has a "special place" for

God has a "special place" for Julie's ex and those like him. Does anyone know if little Autumn was exposed to this steaming divot's behavior? Let's hope not...but then again, this was probably going on during the pregnancy and she probably felt mom's stress and anguish.

adam
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adam 06/05/07 - 05:39 pm
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Why don't abused women just

Why don't abused women just wait until the man is sleeping and bash him in the face with a bat and see how he likes it?

curly123053
5210
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curly123053 06/05/07 - 06:27 pm
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If the woman feels like doing

If the woman feels like doing something like that she should just get up and leave when the fool is asleep. There are great groups on both sides of the Savannah River who offer shelters and assistance to women and their kids who are being abused. If you know a woman who is living in an abusing relationship refer her to Safe Homes of Augusta or the Cumbee Center in Aiken. No lady should have to live in fear of a loved one on a daily basis.When home is where the hurt is then something is wrong.

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