Violet Jalil, 4, has a shark-bite scar that is a third as tall as she is, and when you meet her, she’ll show it to you.
Her mother, Jessica Veatch, said Violet is proud of the mark that stretches from mid-thigh to just below her knee on her right leg.
“She’s never lost her smile,” said Veatch, a Port St. Lucie resident. “She just wants to talk to people and tell them what happened to her.”
On Dec. 15, three months after the shark attack, Veatch, Violet and a family friend Suzanne Cosme went to a beach just north of Bathtub Reef Beach in Stuart where Violet was bitten, for a photo shoot. In a blue-and-purple one-piece bathing suit, Violet grinned and brandished her scar for Cosme’s camera.
She posed with Sharkey, one of her favorite stuffed animals. “Mermaid” is printed on her bathing suit, and Violet said she wants to be one.
On Aug. 27, Violet, who was 3 years old at the time, was playing in shallow water at Bathtub Reef. Her 10-year-old brother Jordan and her sister Anastasia, 5, were nearby. Veatch was looking for Violet’s sunglasses and didn’t see the shark swim up.
“I heard her scream and say, ‘Mommy,’ and I saw blood,” Veatch said.
Veatch carried her daughter to safety, and Violet was flown to St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach. As Veatch watched the medical team take Violet, she remembers her daughter’s blue lips.
“I didn’t know how she would survive that,” she said.
At the hospital, doctors told Violet’s family an infection could mean she would need to stay in the hospital from five weeks after the surgery. Ten days later, she was released. Her medical expenses were partly covered by $5,905 raised through a GoFundMe page online set up by Veatch.
Stacy Silvestri donated $100 to the page when she heard Veatch’s daughter was in the hospital. Veatch is Silvestri’s dog groomer. Silvestri said it was especially difficult for Veatch, who is a single mother.
Violet is “just a beautiful girl,” she said. “I just wanted to help them out.”
Violet is one of 30 shark attack victims in Florida this year, according to the International Shark Attack File records. Of the 30, four happened in Palm Beach and two took place in Martin County.
George Burgess, a former curator for the ISAF at the University of Florida, said the global rate of shark attacks is on par with last year. In 2016, there was 84 shark attacks internationally, and four of those attacks resulted in death. Burgess said the stretch of beaches from Martin County to Fort. Lauderdale is a hot spot for shark attacks.
The chance that a swimmer has of encountering a shark increases when fishermen using bloody bait are in the area, Burgess said. To decrease the odds of the attacks, Burgess recommended creating designated areas for fishing that are separated from swimmers.
Veatch said she has advocated for Martin County commission to pass legislation that would stop fishing on public beaches and keep swimmers like Violet safe.
“I feel like (shark fishing) should be banned from these swimming areas,” she said. “It’s just not smart.”
Veatch has visited Bathtub Beach since she was the same age as Violet and said she’s never seen a shark there. She said she takes her daughter there because the water is shallow.
Veatch said Violet has been ready to go back to the beach since she left the hospital.
“She’s not afraid of sharks,” Veatch said of the 3-foot-tall shark attack survivor. “She knows the shark didn’t mean to bite her.”