Domestic violence survivor saved by MUSC doctors speaks about getting help with abuse


CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- At four months pregnant, Haleigh Startin was done with being abused by her partner.

One day in January 2020, Startin and her partner were in the car when she took off her wedding ring saying that she was finished with the relationship. Her partner became enraged and shot Startin at point blank range in the head.

She was kicked out of the car and left for dead along a rural road in Green Sea, South Carolina. Good samaritans found her and Startin was transported to the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in grave condition.

“Everything happens for a reason. I truly believe that if it wasn’t for the bullet I probably would have been killed another way. So the bullet almost killed me but it saved my life at the same time,” said Startin.

When she arrived at MUSC, Startin was rushed to emergency surgery as bullet fragments littered her brain.

“On the way in that bullet went very close to the major artery of her brain and it didn’t transect it, it didn’t go through, it went next to it. The energy transmission and the velocity of the bullet to the artery tore the artery.” said Dr. Spiotta.

It was there that Doctor Alex Spiotta saved two lives, Startin’s and her unborn baby’s.

“We went through the arteries and repaired that tear in the artery before it had a chance to rupture,” said Spiotta.

Doctors also removed part of Startin’s skull to help the swelling. Spiotta says that the bullet was close to cutting a major artery in her brain.

Today, as a survivor during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Startin has a few messages for women in abusive relationships.

She says verbal abuse is a warning sign.

“Verbal abuse is still abuse. Once that verbal abuse has been shown then it will lead to physical abuse.”

Startins says that telling others what’s going on helps and the best thing to do is leave the relationship.

“It’s easier said than done trust me I tried to leave many times. It wasn’t just that one day when he shot me. I tried not hard enough obviously,” said Startin. “Women who are struggling with domestic violence now they do have the strength. They have the strength they just don’t know it. I’m free now. I’m great. I’m awesome. He can’t hurt me anymore.”

Resources are available from MUSC in Charleston, across South Carolina and nationally for people who are in abusive relationships.

“There’s always resources for battered women and you don’t have to stay in such a violent environment especially if you have kids or are pregnant like I was,” said Startin.

Charleston and MUSC resources-

  • MUSC Advocacy Program: 843-792-2123
  • MUSC National Crime Victim Center (NCVC): 843-792-8209
  • Charleston Area Consolidated Dispatch (Non-Emergency): 843-743-7200
  • My Sisters House: 843-744-3242

Statewide resources-

  • SC Legal Services: 888-346-5592

National resources-

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233

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