Sheroes Hangout: a support community for acid attack victims.

“Happy girls are the prettiest!” captions a photo of two young ladies in my newsfeed, their two bright smiles indicating that they are, in fact, happy, overriding the cognitive dissonance with the appearance of severely scarred skin, and leaving the impression in my mind that they are, indeed, pretty girls.

Nothing makes a person beautiful the way a smile does.

These girls are survivors of acid attacks, a form of violence currently on the rise around the world. Acid attacks are quite popular with their perpetrators for two main reasons. Firstly, they are very effective, causing the victim not only excruciating pain during the attack and slow and painful recovery process, but also long-standing emotional suffering due to the disfiguring scarring and social shunning. Secondly, sadly the perpetrators often walk unpunished: because no major harm is done to the limbs or inner organs of the victim, this offence is often registered as a simple battery or misdemeanor, and the attacker usually serves mere months in prison, if any time at all: sometimes, the police even refuses to register the attack as a criminal act.

Fortunately, this second reason is changing: laws are being passed to register acid attacks as a separate crime with a much more severe punishment. However, in order for these attacks to really be wiped out, the main reason to carry them out has to be eliminated as well. While not much can be done to alleviate the physical pain of the burn and psychological pain of disfigurement, the long-term negative effects can be mitigated by eliminating the social stigma faced by survivors. Think of Katie Piper, the British TV presenter and activist who is also an acid attack survivor. Would her perpetrator have carried out the attack if he had known that he would spend the rest of his life in jail, while she would go on to have a successful career and family despite the damage caused by his attack?

Redacteur Redactie

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