Josie Ratley Speaking for First Time in Public

Teen beating victim talking six months after attack

By Brian Hamacher
|  Monday, Sep 13, 2010  |  Updated 10:04 AM EDT
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Josie Ratley Rehabbing

Josie Ratley

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Josie Ratley Speaks on "Today"

The Deerfield BEach teen beating victim speaks in public for the first time.

Josie Ratley Rehabbing

Josie Ratley is making new friends as she struggles to put her life back together.
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Nearly six months after a brutal attack left Josie Lou Ratley with severe brain damage, the public is finally getting to hear the South Florida teen speak.

The 15-year-old, who spent over 40 days in a medically-induced coma and couldn't speak when she awoke, was seen joking with her mother and chatting with her therapist in a Monday morning "Today Show" segment.

"She looks wonderful but the inside is still healing," mother Hilda Gotay said of her daughter's progress. "I would love to see her the way she was, she has a lot to learn. Physically, she's great, she's beautiful, but the inside of her brain is not good."

Ratley, who underwent three brain surgeries and had a part of her damaged brain removed, is still in the process of relearning nearly everything, from her ABC's and 123's to physical activities like brushing her teeth and taking a shower.

For instance, when trying to identify a chart of colors, Ratley easily rattles off red and green but gets stuck on blue.

"In the sky," is how she describes the color.

But considering the shape she was in a short time ago, the turnaround is amazing. Describing her embarrassment of having to attend an upcoming concert with her mom, Ratley articulates the sentiments of many a teen.

"She's staying in the back of me, so I won't be by myself," Ratley laments.

"It seems like she remembers pieces from the past but she doesn't remember too much of the present," said Gotay.

Gotay said Ratley doesn't remember the March 17 beating outside her Deerfield Beach Middle School that nearly ended her life. Her attacker, 15-year-old Wayne Treacy had become enraged after a text message exchange between the two. He repeatedly punched her and kicked her with steel-toed boots in the vicious attack, and is now behind bars awaiting trial for attempted murder.

Gotay said she and Ratley's doctors don't know if she'll ever get back to 100 percent.

"It's hard not to cry," said Gotay. "It's sad, very sad, just thinking all the time how my daughter is, where is she going and hope that she'll get better."

She said that the two spend much of their time at home but try to live a normal life.

"We stay home a lot, she goes to her therapist," Gotay said. "We spend a lot of time together, we don't go out too much, trying to keep her safe."

Meanwhile, Gotay's lawyer, Sean Dominick, said he's contacted the Broward County School System about a possible civil lawsuit.

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