MESQUITE (TX) –- To relieve the near-constant pain, Sondra Scarber must use a syringe to squeeze medicine between her teeth. Swallowing anything solid - even something as small as a pill - is impossible. Speaking is very difficult.
“It’s hard for me to stay strong when I see myself in the mirror,” the 27-year-old said, through her clenched jaw that’s been wired shut. Her face is badly swollen and bruised. “I can’t do anything for myself,” she said through tears.
Scarber is grateful simply to be alive. She said she was attacked at an elementary school playground for protecting a bullied four-year-old boy. The scuffle between children, however, quickly escalated into violence among adults, Scarber worries, because she is a lesbian.
“She was just helping him, defending him from a big kid, and this is what happened to her,” said Scarber’s girlfriend and the boy’s mother, Hillary Causey.
The couple had taken Causey’s son, Jaxon, to the playground at Mesquite’s Seabourn Elementary on Feb. 17. Shortly after arriving at 2:30 p.m., though, the couple said some older children began pushing Jaxon around.
“Sondra said, ‘Can you please keep your hands off of him, he’s only four,’” Causey said.
The father became enraged, she said, when he realized Scarber, who wears baggy clothes and has short hair, is a woman, and that the two are lesbians. Friends since the third grade, Scarber and Causey have been girlfriends for three years. They’re raising Causey’s young son together.
“When he walked up thinking it was father and mom with the kid, he wasn’t as angry,” said Causey, 26, “but then when he figured out it was a female, he got like super pissed, and I don’t know why.”
She said the man punched and kicked Scarber repeatedly, hurling homophobic slurs at her while she lay on the ground, unconscious.
“He was like, ‘well if you think you’re a man… I’m going to treat you like a man,’” Causey said. “All she kept saying was, ‘I’m a female. I’m a female…' She never even had time to take her hands out of pockets to try and block herself.”
Mesquite police haven’t caught the suspect. Officers aren’t convinced the attack meets the true qualifications of a hate crime, since the scuffle among children was the initial trigger.
“At this point, we have no indication the assault occurred because of her sexual orientation,” said Lt. Bill Hedgpeth with the Mesquite police. “Regardless of motive, we want to catch them.”
The women are convinced the attack was a hate crime, and are frustrated with what they feel is the department’s lack of urgency with their case.
Officers insist they are looking for a black man, about 5’7", who weighs 185 pounds. He was wearing a royal blue T-shirt and jeans, and was driving an early 2000's silver Chevrolet Impala with temporary tags. Police say he was with a black woman, about 5’5”, 140 pounds, wearing a white T-shirt and jeans.
Scarber is anxious to see her attacker caught, but she’s most worried about how this will affect Jaxon. He is having troubling sleeping and is afraid to return to the park. She herself now faces months of recovery after surgeons implanted a metal plate in her jaw.
“I think it’s evil to treat somebody in such a way and get away with it,” she said. “I don’t think it’s okay to put someone in this much pain because you don’t think it’s okay for me to raise my son.”