A woman whose boyfriend is in jail for beating her and forcibly shaving off her hair has found a way to turn that experience into something positive for others.
Carissa doesn't want to let what was meant to be an act of violence and humiliation define her. Instead, she's making a fresh start by donating her hair to Locks of Love to help cancer patients.
Carissa has a lot of pictures on her Facebook page showing her beautiful long, dark hair. She said what you can't see in those pictures is the emotional and physical pain she was dealing with because of an eight-month-long abusive relationship with her boyfriend, that included punching, choking and kicking.
"Usually, the next day, he would tear up and cry and feel so bad. He'd see the marks or see me move and I hurt or would moan and groan, and he would say, 'I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry,'" Carissa said.
She said she never dreamed it would escalate to the point it did last weekend. After she said he beat and choked her, she told him she was done and was leaving. She said that's when he got the clippers and told her he would make her look like a clown, so no one would ever want her.
"Literally thought I was going to die," Carissa said. "I didn't even know what to do. I laid there and let him do it. I knew if I tried to fight, it would turn into something worse. It was humiliating and scary and just sad."
He left the motel where they'd been living for the past month and Carissa called her mom, so convinced she was going to die that night, and said her goodbyes.
But her mother called 911 and, as officers arrived, so did Carissa's boyfriend, Vernon Peel, He was arrested for assault.
Her black eyes have healed and she shaved off the rest of her hair. She said she decided, what a better way to make a new start than to donate her hair to a good cause through the Hair Relations Salon in Claremore? Carissa said it's a good way to honor her grandmother, who passed away from cancer in July.
"Hopefully, it'll be of good use to somebody," Carissa said.
She said she's going to embrace her new look and how it symbolizes a new start for her life.
"Just move forward and only look back to see how far I've come," she said.
Neel is still in jail, although no charges have been filed against him for this case.
Carissa plans to get a protective order against him. She also plans to go to counseling and hopes other women in abusive relationships will find a way to get out before it's too late.