We all know that domestic violence and abuse exist around the world. We know that it occurs behind closed doors on a daily basis. However, many perpetrators take caution to cover their tracks, oftentimes leaving bruises and wounds in places that can be covered by clothing. The victims themselves usually help to hide their afflictions - often due to fear and sometimes due to a misguided attempt to protect the offender.
Domestic violence affects everyone around the perpetrator and victim as well - particularly children. Even if the attacker never lays a hand on the kids, the impact of witnessing violence and abuse can also have lasting, detrimental effects. If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic abuse, it is important to seek help immediately. There are many organizations out there that dedicate their time and resources to helping victims in need. Here is the story of one such victim who has been suffering the consequences of domestic violence silently for over a decade, and how a local couple has helped her start the healing process both physically and emotionally.
When Saundra Crockett was in her twenties, she was an optimistic young woman who had her whole life to look forward to. She had a husband and two beautiful children - the perfect beginning to a life of happiness.
Then, at the age of 28, her world was turned upside down at the hands of her own husband. She never thought that someone she had loved and trusted would be the one to destroy her life forever.
Saundra had become a victim of domestic violence. Her husband at the time had begun to batter her severely. So severely, in fact, that Saundra sustained an acute infection that was literally eating away at her face.
When she was first admitted to the hospital, they told her that she was not going to survive the injury and that she had three days to live. Thankfully, she did survive this unimaginable ordeal. But it was far from over.
Although she had a new lease on life, it was going to be an uphill battle. The destructive infection had not killed her, but it had taken a large chunk of her face. She couldn't even open her left eye, and her mouth would not be able to open wide enough for her to eat.
One of the most challenging obstacles was dealing with her young children in her new state. She covered her face with a mask going forward - both outside and inside the home.
Her children were still young at the time, so it was hard for them to comprehend what was happening. "They could hear my voice so they knew who I was, but they didn't know who I was because of my face," Saundra told CBS. "It was ah ... pretty awful."
That mask became a part of her physical identity for the next twelve years ... until an organization called Face Forward stepped into help her.
Face Forward is run by Dr. David Alessi and his wife, Deborah Alessi. Deborah had once been subjected to domestic violence herself, so she knows exactly what victims are going through and what they need to heal and move forward in life. "It's very difficult sometimes," Deborah commented. "They have to look in the mirror and be reminded this man or this woman or this mother did this to me."
The incredible couple has helped countless victims throughout the years through various means. For those who suffer from physical damages, Dr. David Alessi personally performs the surgeries - at no cost. In fact, the help that they provide to the victims is completely free of charge. On top of undergoing surgery, Face Forward requires that their patients also receive therapy. "If they don't get the therapy with the surgery, which we provide, then they are going to continue to date an abuser and if we can help change that pattern, then that's why we're here," Deborah explained. The only thing that David and Deborah ask for in return is that these individuals pay it forward by becoming advocates against domestic violence. They are asked to sign a form that ensures they honor this one, small requirement.
The life-changing work that this charitable couple does is very rewarding for themselves as well. "It's very emotional, but when I see the end results, it's like a happy ending," Deborah commented. Dr. Alessi performed a series of surgeries that have significantly improved the condition of Saundra's face. "This is a thousand times better than what I looked like when this first happened to me," she said. "I don't think I could even describe how awful it was."
Thanks to Face Forward, Saundra has regained the confidence to live without a mask once again, and she plans to honor her promise to the selfless couple by helping others. "If I can speak to one person and give them hope that this doesn't have to happen to you, I think that it's my job to do that," she said. For more information on the incredible organization Face Forward, be sure to check out their website here.
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