Five million women a year are victims of domestic violence in this country, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. They are left with lifelong scars, both emotional and physical.
But with medical help from volunteer doctors, some battered women are finding a way to heal.
The Early Show's Jane Clayson talked with 28-year-old Shireen, who suffered five years in an abusive relationship before she could find the courage to get out.
"I remember waking up and thinking, 'I don't know how I got to this point, but the point that I'm at is not a good one, you know, and I need to get out of it,'" Shireen recalls. She says it took a lot of courage to get out of the relationship. "People don't know it, but it takes a lot because there are so many ties."
After she left the relationship, Shireen found love in a healthy relationship with another man. She was happily married and pregnant when her abusive former boyfriend found her. He stalked her, made phone calls and showed up at her job to threaten her and her co-workers with a gun.
Then, a few weeks before she was due to give birth, the man tracked her down in a grocery store and attacked her with a knife. She received four knife wounds on her face and neck.
Shireen and her baby survived the attack, but some things were difficult. "At first, the damage, I mean just the pain alone was really bad," she says. But the scars were still painful long after they healed.
Not long ago, Shireen found out about Face to Face, a program where she could receive free plastic surgery to remove them.
A New Beginning
Three weeks ago Shireen had the surgery, and as the bandages came off, she hoped for a new beginning, and a chance to put the memories of the attack far behind her.
Dr. Russell Kridel, president of the American Academy of Facial Plastic Surgery, visited The Early Show along with Shireen to talk about the Fact to Face program.
In 1994, the American Academy of Facial, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery teamed up with the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence to develop Face to Face.
After psychological healing has begun with the help of professional counseling, and the victim is safely away from the violent relationship, surgery is performed to repair the damaged facial features and hopefully alleviate the painful memories of past abuse.
Women must call a toll free number, 1-800-842-4546 to be screened to determine if their injuries are a result of domestic violence and if they are out of the abusive relationship, and to give a brief description of the injuries.
A domestic violence shelter must be contacted for an appointment with a counselor to receive verification from an independent source and to make sure the participant attends a local domestic violence program. Then there is a rferral and a free consultation, which can lead to free surgery.
Participants can be women, men or children. Injuries must be to the head, face or neck.
The Academy has 2,600 facial plastic surgeons as members.
Links for More Information
The American Academy of Facial, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery has a Web site at www.facial-plastic-surgery.org
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence is online at www.ncadv.org
The U.S. Department of Justice's Violence Against Women Office, at www.ojp.usdoj.gov/vawo may also be helpful.
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