Cosmetic Facial Surgery and Domestic Abuse

blogdomesticviolenceCosmetic facial surgery and domestic violence may seem like unlikely bedfellows, but unfortunately they are sometimes very entwined.   I guarantee, whether you realize it or not, if you are reading this you have friend, coworker or neighbor that is a victim of domestic violence.

I practice cosmetic facial surgery and I am also very active in giving back to the community, especially for the disenfranchised.  One of the local charities I support in Richmond Virginia is Safe Harbor Shelter, an organization that saves lives by providing education, advocacy, counseling & shelter to break the cycle of domestic violence. I am one of their spokespersons and my wife is a member of their executive board; we feel that strongly about the subject.

Facts on Domestic Violence courtesy of  www.safeharborshelter.com

Domestic Violence

In America, one hour from now, there will be…
240 women battered

400 children will witness violence in their home
4 women will be killed by an intimate partner

In Henrico County, Virginia last year…
5,592 police calls for service due to domestic violence
377 protective orders were served

Understanding Domestic Violence

  • Domestic Violence is a pattern of physically, sexually and/or emotionally abusive behaviors used by one individual to maintain power over or to control a partner in the context of an intimate or family relationship.
  • Abuse can take many different forms including emotional, verbal, and/or sexual. All forms of abuse are serious and can have devastating effects on the victim.
  • No one is immune from domestic violence. It affects people of all races, ages, religions, economic groups, and education levels. It happens in any and all types of intimate relationships regardless of sexuality.
  • Domestic violence is not genetic or something the abusive partner is just “born with”. Domestic violence is always a choice.
  • Violence is not caused by “stress”. Everyone experiences stress and can choose to deal with it in a variety of ways including exercise, deep breathing, reading, eating, etc.
    People who choose to use violence need to be held accountable for that choice.

Types of Abuse

  • Physical Abuse – a wide range of behaviors, which include aggressive behavior done by the offender to the victim’s body.
  • Sexual Abuse – includes aggressive sexual acts to the victim’s body.
  • Psychological/Emotional Abuse – involves no contact with the victim’s body, involves the use of verbal, emotional, and psychological weapons rather than physical attacks. This may be a prerequisite to physical abuse.
  • Destruction of Property/Pets – involves no contact with the victim’s body, but behavior is still meant to intimidate the victim. Destruction is not random or meant to “blow off steam”. Has the same emotional impact as physical assault.

What does this have to do with cosmetic facial surgery?  I want to first answer this historically relating a story as a young intern in the early 1980’s at the Medical College of Virginia.  On a very usual, long night on call, I was summoned to the emergency room to sew up a young lady with a facial laceration and broken cheekbone.  It was the middle of the night and I was up most of the night before, doing similar work on the citizens of Richmond, Virginia that got in harm’s way.  This lady was not drunk (unlike most) and she was very quiet and sobbing. As I always did, I asked her what happened and she said her husband hit her.  I shook my head and kept stitching trying to be compassionate and not thinking how good it would feel to get some sleep!  It took about ½ hour to close her laceration and then as per routine, I wrote her prescriptions and asked her how she was getting home.  She looked me in the eye (with one eye, as one of her eyes was bandaged) and said “My husband is waiting for me in the waiting room, he is my ride”.  I shook my head in disbelief and went into the nursing station to fill out the chart.  Embarrassing as it is, I admit that like most young, sleep deprived interns in the middle of the night I did not understand what had just happened.  I am also embarrassed that I looked at one of the nurses and said “she is going home with him?…… I have not pity for her, what the hell is wrong with her?”  The next five minutes were some of the best and most heartfelt education that I ever received.  This nurse asked me to step into the coffee break room, poured us both a cup of 3 AM hospital coffee and said “Joe, you don’t understand, but you need to understand”.  This compassionate nurse explained to me (good doctors learn a lot from nurses) the cycle of domestic violence and it changed my thoughts forever.  She explained to my how some males (it can happen the other way around, but it is usually male on female) totally dominate their spouse (or girlfriend).  They dominate in every means possible.  They dominate physically, mentally, financially, sexually and rob that person of any shred of self esteem.  Their goal is to whip their mate like dog so that the person literally cannot function or is afraid to function without the denominator.

An example would be Fred who has a drinking problem and low self esteem himself.  He can only feel powerful by making someone else feel powerless.  These tendencies may have been evident as a child and Fred probably learned this behavior at home.  Fred is unhappy, he is overly jealous and he does not want to see Mary happy as it underlines his failures.  Fred never compliments Mary; in fact he goes out of his way to denigrate her.  He compares her to her friends and scorns her for not being like them.  He tells Mary she is not pretty and that she has a bad body, that she is lazy, a bad mother and a bad lover.  As Mary pulls away from this torment, Fred will show a little kindness so he can keep his prey in his trap.  When Mary responds, Fred starts right back up again.  When Fred has a bad day, he comes home and drinks and gets verbally and physically abusive.  When Mary cries, he calls her weak and blames his or the families failures on her.  He scares the children and his son sees this behavior and thinks this is how men treat women.  Fred won’t give Mary spending money because he does not want her to be independent.  If she makes any comment or even the slightest suggestion of approval of another male, Fred flies off the hook, and this is when the punches come.  Fred hates it when Mary goes out with her friends and the few opportunities that she does, accusations and a fight await her arrival home.

Mary does not know what to do.  She loves Fred (or so she thinks) but fears him.  Fred has told Mary that if she ever attempts to leave, he will take her children or even worse he will kill her.  Mary lives in fear.  Each day is a nightmare as Fred is unpredictable.  Mary has spoken to her friends about leaving or getting help and they encourage her, but her broken cheek bone and cut face is testament to the seriousness of Fred’s threats.  She is trapped and has no obvious or safe way out.  Life should not be like this, no one deserves to live in this kind of intimidation.  If only she could be strong, move out, take her kids, get a job, start all over, it would be a dream, but she can’t, so it remains a nightmare instead of a dream.  Mary is familiar with similar cases where men like Fred kept their word if the spouse left.  It is not uncommon to pick up the paper and read about some poor woman who, like Mary was an abused spouse and could not take it anymore.  The person left their abuser and he harassed them.  They got a restraining order to keep him away and to stay safe.  He came back and killed her.

The above scenario is real and it is happening to hundreds of women in my hometown and your hometown.  The only way out for these victims is a safe shelter where their spouse cannot find them and where they can have a place to stay with their children, where they can get medical, legal, religious, and psychological assistance.  Safe Harbor Shelter is one of those places and you have a place like that in your city as well.  These shelters need support, both financial and volunteer.  Once you participate in assisting a victim you will have a true feeling of helping someone in need.  You will feel that you truly did something that matters in society.

Back to Cosmetic Facial Surgery

As I stated earlier, one of my life goals is to give back to the community.  I have treated several female abuse victims on a pro bono basis.  Some of the cosmetic treatment has been for old facial injuries received from abuse and other times it has been to freshen up their appearance to elevate their self esteem.  It has been my pleasure to assist these unfortunate individuals but they are aged beyond their years from past domestic abuse.  I can make their scars better and make their neck tighter, but I (nor any other surgeon) can personally can never erase their lasting mental anxiety.  If my work helps them, even a little bit, it makes me sleep better at night, knowing I have made a difference.  It is a good feeling.

 

Joe Niamtu, III DMD

Cosmetic Facial Surgery

Richmond, Virginia