October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a period of reflection, teaching, and mourning for me. Just when I think I know all that I can about domestic violence and how it grossly impacts our communities and society, I learn something new.
Did you know that my case was not categorized as domestic violence? Nope. I did not know or have a relationship with the people who attacked me and my ex-boyfriend was never charged with a crime.
So, he was never physically, verbally, or financially abusive toward me, but he knowingly put my life in danger. Isn’t that just as bad?
It’s not always black and white. Grey areas.
From now until forever I will share my story and raise awareness about the many forms of domestic violence. I will also support the efforts of the YWCA’s Purple Purse Project by making a donation.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline toll free at 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224. It’s safe and confidential. Trained advocates are available to take your call 24/7.
If you’d like to learn more about domestic violence and its different forms please visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline. http://www.thehotline.org
Privilege & Perspective
Although my journey as an acid burn survivor hasn’t been easy, I recognize how privileged I am.
• I had great health insurance at the time of my assault and received the best medical care in one of the best burn units in the United States.
• At least one of my attackers was held accountable and convicted of heinous battery.
• The Crime Victims Compensation Bureau helped me with my $250K hospital bill.
• I was not disfigured and I did not lose my sight.
• I had supportive family & friends to care for me during & after my recovery.
• I was able to go back to work in an environment that was supportive & compassionate.
• I received mental health services to help me deal with the grief and trauma I experienced.
• I was able to go back to school to obtain a Master’s degree.
• I do not suffer from social isolation or have issues getting a date.
• I can share my story freely and on my own terms without fear of retaliation.
• I have been able to redefine beauty and share my scars with confidence.
Meanwhile, there are thousands of acid burn survivors around the globe, mostly women, whose faces and bodies are scarred beyond recognition.
• Whose attackers will never be held accountable.
• Whose attacks will likely be falsely registered as “stove blast” and they will have to go back home to the perpetrator who attacked them.
• Women who will never be able to tell their story.
• Who will not receive adequate medical care.
• Who will be ridiculed and forced into a life of solitude because of social stigma.
• Who will suffer a lifetime of societal trauma.
• Who will not find a job or be able to earn a living.
• Who will likely suffer serious disabilities like blindness.
• Who will have to fend for themselves and become dependent on others.
I am not doing enough.
If I tell a curious stranger that I obtained my burns in a house fire they usually nod with concern and say, “Oh, I’m so sorry.”
If I tell a curious stranger that my burns were the result of a fiery car accident they usually gasp and express their concern with a kind, “My goodness, that’s terrible.”
But if I tell a curious stranger that I was assaulted with acid they usually respond with, “But why?”
There is stigma attached to my assault. I’m sure it’s unconscious and unintentional, but when a person asks, “But why?” They’re really asking me what I did to cause something like that to happen. And in doing so it places the blame on me.
No, I did not do anything to cause another person to do something so horrific and violent.
Instead, one should ask, “What happened to the person who assaulted you? What went wrong in the their life to cause them to do such a horrible thing to another person?”
Food for thought. The stigma stings almost as badly as the burn.
I am 30 + years old.
My weight has fluctuated over the years.
My stomach has endured 3rd degree full-thickness burns, skin grafts and a 7 + pound baby.
My abs are stronger than ever, but the skin on my stomach will never be the same.
And I’m okay with that. I still wear a bikini because I feel like it. Who gon’ check me, boo?