When a slim, brown complexioned man approached shopkeeper Mala Persaud on the morning of June 01, 2013, she never dreamed that he would have changed her life forever, in the worst possible way.
Just another customer who needs cigarettes, the 57-year-old woman thought.
There were two strange things about this visitor, though. He was sheltering beneath an umbrella, even though there was no hint of rain. He was also holding a cup, though it certainly did not seem like he was having tea.
It literally look her five seconds to find out what was in that cup, and why he was sheltering beneath an umbrella on a cool and warm morning.
It was acid in that cup – and he meant to throw it in her face – the umbrella was used to conceal his identity.
That was the moment that changed Persaud’s life forever.
After three years, she still sees him in her dreams; but, as scary as it may seem, she still hopes to see him again – but this time in shackles in a court room.
Persaud, who was forced to close her shop, wants her attacker to see what he has done.
She wants him to know that even after 20 surgeries, she still has many more to endure and in the night when she sleeps, it is hard for her to breathe, because one of her nostrils is damaged.
Recalling what transpired that morning, Mrs. Persaud, who operated a shop at her Lot 9 Station Street, Kitty home said that she was reversing her car in front of her yard when the unknown man approached her and asked for cigarettes.
“I told him that I didn’t have and I turned away and then he said “look,” and when I turn, he throw the cup with acid in my face and run,” the woman recounted. Alerted by her screams, Persaud’s children came to the car, and took their badly injured mother to the hospital.
She had sustained burns to her face, hands, chest and feet. She remained there for three days, but her agonizing journey to full recovery is still not over.
“It is not an easy thing. When you have to go through surgery after surgery, it is painful. I had to do surgeries on my nose to help me breathe and still I can’t breathe freely,” she said. Every morning I have to clean my nose in order to breathe.”
“If I am doing chores, I have to take a rest. I can’t do things for long because of my injuries.”
Persaud recalled that for the first few months, she had to sleep with her mouth open in order to breathe.
At first, it was hard for her to go out because she didn’t want people to see the person she had become—and when people stared at her, it made matters worse.
“I felt bad and ashamed when they look at me. At times, I didn’t want to go anywhere. I just wanted to stay home but after a while I realized that I wasn’t born this way and someone had done this to me.”
While the cops have failed to locate the man who threw acid in Persaud’s face, she is convinced that an irate resident hired the man who disfigured her. She said that she had made several complaints against the wealthy individual.
She is furious that after having endured so many surgeries and having lived through three years of pain, the police have not arrested anyone.
“I don’t think they are serious about finding this guy. I fed up run to the station so I just leave it.”
Meanwhile, a Social Worker who worked at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) for almost six years said that she counselled 10 persons who would have been burnt with acid by their lover, a partner of their lover or unknown persons.
“Working with these persons is not easy. The hardest part is when they have to see their face for the first time after surgery. Some of them become suicidal and we had to treat them for depression. It affects them psychologically,” the woman said.
She explained that in most cases, persons who have been affected are beautiful females and counselling them takes years.
“You are being told that you need to love yourself…but when you cannot love who you have become, it is hard for us now to try to convince that person that they are beautiful and while they still are, their new identity messes with them,” the woman said.
She recalled that in one case, she spent hours on the phone at nights with a victim, who cried and claimed she would rather be dead. Today, the Social Worker said that that person has migrated and is married with two children.
Perpetrators of these attacks deliberately throw the substance on the faces of their victims. The acid damages skin tissue, often exposing and sometimes dissolving bones.
The most common corrosive substance used in these attacks is sulfuric acid which can be found in car batteries. Places that buy old batteries sell this substance in portions, starting at $200. Sometimes, it is given away.
The former Social Worker said that the police should start charging persons who sell these substances out in the open.
“Just like how you need a prescription to buy certain medication, the police should have regulations (in place) to acquire these substances, because they are deadly.”
As it relates to penalties for perpetrators of these attacks, she feels they should face harsh penalties, since these attacks can be worse than killing someone.
“Some of these victims wish they were dead because the pain alone is excruciating and don’t talk about surgeries. It is one after the next and year after year. It never stops. Their lives become one that is filled with hospital visits,” woman explained.
Only last month, 26-year-old Shondel Williamson had acid thrown in her face by her estranged partner.
On May 25, 2010, Pretipaul Jaigobin was heading to his Clonbrook, East Coast Demerara home from a restaurant where he was having a beer when a strange man walked up to him and threw a corrosive substance in his face.
In June 2006, Joann Lynch was brutally attacked with acid by the former reputed wife of her then boyfriend.
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