Acid victim forgives attackers

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  • Saturday, September 10, 2011
  • THE Zimbabwean woman who has suffered severe injuries after acid was thrown in her face while in a taxi last week Tuesday, forgives her unknown attackers and does not want them to go to jail.

    The 23-year-old woman, assuming the alias ‘Susan’ to protect her identity, spoke to the media on Wednesday night for the first time since her attack.

    Her head swathed in a thick layer of bandages so that only her right eye and part of her mouth were visible, she sat at the hastily assembled press conference flanked my her employer, another doctor, the plastic surgeon who has undertaken to operate pro bono, and representatives from Cosatu and the refugee rights organisation Passop.

    Barely audible, she told how she was waiting to catch a taxi home on Tuesday evening after her day working as a receptionist for Dr Elisabeth Parker, when two men crossed the road and brushed past her, forcing her to step aside to let them pass.

    They disappeared around the corner and she thought nothing of it but when she got into the taxi, so did they.

    The two men, whom she had never seen before, went to sit at the back of the taxi while she sat next to the door.

    Shortly thereafter they called out to the taxi driver to stop at a quiet area.

    As they got out one of them was holding a 750ml bottle with what she thought was water inside. But as they exited, the man turned around and splashed the liquid in her face.

    “I could feel it burning, the burning did not stop,” she said.

    The men fled into the Bo-Kaap and in vain the taxi driver chased after them in the taxi before driving her, and a man sitting next to her who sustained minor burns on his leg from the acid which, in hindsight wasted precious time during which she could have been treated.

    Plastic surgeon Mark van der Velde was on duty at the hospital when Susan was rushed into the trauma unit.

    He said the nurses on duty put her in the shower to wash away the acid and then dressed the wounds with ‘silver dressings’ to prevent infection.

    Van der Velde, who has offered his services as plastic surgeon pro-bono and conducted an initial operation on Susan on Tuesday, said Susan had “full thickness” burns to her eyelids and left brow and her left ear was completely burnt away with nothing left but cartilage.

    She also suffered partial thickness burns to her left cheek, deep burns to her left shoulder and burns on her hands, leg and left breast.

    It would take about 25 hours of surgery over a “three to four year” period to reinstate her “beauty”, he said.

    The associated medical costs, even at reduced rates offered by the Christiaan Barnard Memorial hospital, would amount to over R500 000.

    Van der Velde said when he encountered Susan’s injuries he was “struck by the sheer horror of what I saw. That one human being could do this to another.”

    It was a “priviledge” to offer his services to restore her beauty, he said.

    Her employer, Elisabeth Parker, said Susan had been working for her for “a few months” and she was beautiful both on the inside and outside.

    Susan said although she is Zimbabwean she did not think the attack was motivated by xenophobia as she had never seen her attackers before. “They were just taking advantage of me,” she said.

    Nevertheless, she said she forgave.

    “I don’t want someone to go to jail because of me. I forgive them. What is done is done already.

    Provincial police spokesperson Andre Traut said one suspect had been arrested on Saturday and made an initial court appearance on Tuesday this week, facing a charge of assault with intention to do grievous bodily harm.

    He said the suspect remained in custody and would be appearing in the Cape Town Magistrate’s court again on September 14.

    The details of the trust fund set up by Dr Parker to help pay for Susan’s medical expenses are:

    Standard bank

    Branch: Thibault Square, branch no: 02090900


    Account no: 074421395

    Yesterday Parker said some money had been put into the account so far this week but it was still “very low” and she hadn’t checked the latest balance since the press conference on Wednesday. — Steve Kretzmann

    Tags: acidattack, acid attacks in Zimbabwe, law on acid attacks, international, politics, acid survivors in India, Arti Acid case, women, alok dixit, crime against women, crime in India, law on acid attacks

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