By Sherri L. Jackson, The Light
Today Yvette Cade is grateful. She’s grateful to be alive.
Despite the images, horror and agony that she must recall, she’s grateful to be alive to tell the story of the fateful day that changed her life forever.
In fact, almost five years later, she’s come to believe that the tragedy that occurred Oct. 10, 2005, has purpose.
That day, her estranged husband, Roger Byron Hargrave, doused her head with gasoline and set her afire.
Cade’s aunt introduced her to the man who would become Cade’s husband and the father of her daughter. He was well spoken, well educated and well mannerd.
And for the first couple of months Hargrave would wine and dine Cade. Things began to change as he would become angry quickly, become verbally abusive and physically abusive.
Cade got the courage to seperate herself from him physically, but he soon began to stalk her and call her constantly spewing out sexual explicit language.
“I took the first step of standing up when I got a protective order, which is just a piece of paper,” Cade told an audience Thursday, April 30, at the Coughlin Saunders Performing Arts Center.
“It will not protect you from jealously, isolation and stalking. You need to be responsible by not giving up too much information too soon,” she said.
Cade said she tried to leave her husband by going to the House of Ruth. She was turned away because of a lack of bed space, which would not become available for several months. She often called the police for help, but “domestic violence was not a priority.” Since Cade’s tragedy, it has become a priority.
On Oct. 10, 2005, Hargrave walked into Cade’s workplace with a plastic bottle of Sprite in his hands. He came in speaking to her best friend and calling Cade’s name.
Cade said she told him she would be with him once she finished with a customer. He continued messing with her.
“I thought he wanted to give me shame and humiliation,” she said.
“He dumped gas on my head. I ran out of the back door. He followed me lit the match, and I heard an explosion sound.”
Cade said the flames that engulfed her reached 1,500 degrees. “I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy,” said.
Cade said her recently permed hair was an accelerant. “He intended to kill me,” she said.
Hargrave, who left his keys inside of the business went back inside to get them. He left the scene and was arrested a short distance from the business.
Cade, who has undergone multiple surgeries with more to go, suffered third-degree burns over 60 percent of her body. Medical professionals suggested she would be in the hospital for nine months. She left in three months.
“I had to forgive in order to receive my healing,” she said.
Since that time, Cade has used her tragedy to speak to others who find themselves in domestic violence situtions.
“I thank God that I’m able to tell you my story, not for me, but for you, for my family, for the law, and justice,” she said.
Cade it’s important for domestic violence victims to know that their relationships are not just about them, but it’s about their families.
It’s also important to know that people are not made to be prisoners in their own homes, she said.
Cade’s victimization has resulted in several significant changes in the judicial system in Maryland, as well as other states that followed its lead regarding the enforcement of protection orders and the responsibility of courts to intensify their focus on the crime of domestic violence.
In 2007, the U.S. Congressional Victim’s Rights Caucus honored Cade for her leadership as a survivor dedicated to helping other crime victims. In April 2008, she received the Special Courage Award during a ceremony hosted by the Office for Victims of Crime to honor victim advocates, organizations and programs in the field of victim services.
Cade came to Alexandria at the request of Carolyn Hoyt and NextSTEP of Central Louisiana.
“Domestic violence affects all. The U.S. leads the world, and Louisiana is in the top five states for domestic violence,” Hoyt said.
NextSTEP pulls together local resources that benefits battered women and their children as they struggle to escape dangerous and destructive environments. It provides transitional housing for up to two years, along with services necessary to help families have violence-free and independent lives.
Following Cade’s presentation, a two-act play, “Shelter From My Storm,” which told of a battered woman’s journey from domestic violence to independent living.
The play depicted a compilation of true-life events that have occurred in Central Louisiana.