Acid Attacks

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Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy. — Proverbs 31:9

What Is An Acid Attack?

An acid attack is the intentional act of throwing sulfuric acid or another corrosive acidic substance onto on another person to disfigure, maime, torture or kill.

Understanding Acid Attacks

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Majority Of Acid Attack Victims Are Women

Acid attacks are gender-based violence primarily committed against women and girls. Estimates show that 80 percent of victims are women, with 30 percent of them being under age 18.

Acid attacks regularly occur in over 20 countries. Pakistan has the highest number of acid attacks reported, followed by India. In the U.K., the Acid Survivors Trust International recorded a 30 percent increase in corrosive substance-related crimes in 2015.

Areas of reported acid attacks are identified in black. Source: Project SAAVE

Some sources estimate acid attacks have increased by 30 percent over the last two years. In the last 15 years, more than 3,200 acid attacks were reported affecting approximately 3,500 victims.

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Why Acid Attacks Are So Prevalent?

No valid reason reason exists for committing this human rights atrocity. Acid attacks are often committed by “vigilantes” who punish the victim for refusing a marriage proposal or an arranged marriage, being unable to meet dowry demands, as an “honor” related crime due to domestic disputes, or revenge.

The most common reason for attacking women and girls with acid is retaliation or revenge by a man who feels rebuffed, or by a family that fears being “dishonored.” Women are burned for refusing a man’s sexual advances, for trying to leave their husbands, for seeking help for being abused, for looking men in the eyes or in the “wrong” way while walking outside, for not covering their hair or face at all or properly, or because they are abandoned by their husband for any reason.

The majority of acid attacks occur in poorer and rural communities where medical attention is often unavailable are not accessible.

Life Long Injuries Acid Attack Survivors Must Endure

Life Long Injuries Acid Attack Survivors Must Endure

If an acid attack victim survives, injuries often cause the victim to lose their sight or hearing, hair or skin, body parts are disfigured, and the victims are left with deep psychological wounds as they painfully recover from their physical wounds.

Women and girls in developing countries who depend on men for their survival often become orphans ineligible to marry and forced to further suffer from severe poverty. Worse still, acid attack survivors who are not left destitute are otherwise forced to live with the men or family members who attacked them.

With little or no access to reconstructive surgery, survivors are physically and emotionally scarred for life. If the crime is reported, most often the assailant receives little to no punishment for committing the crime. Assailants are often husbands or someone known by the victim, which makes it difficult for the victim to pursue punishment from the state.

zakia

A screen shot of Zakia holding photos of her disfigurement in the documentary, Saving Face. Her husband threw acid on her and has not been punished for his crime.

SAVING FACE, which won the 2012 Best Documentary Short Oscar®, chronicles the lives of Pakistani acid-attack survivors Zakia and Rukhsana as they try to bring to justice their assailants and move on with their lives.

Contradictory Evidence History Of Acid Attacks

History Of Acid Attacks

Acid has been used in metallurgy since ancient times and for etching since the Middle Ages and antiquity. The rhetorical and theatrical term “La Vitrioleuse” was coined in France after a “wave of vitriolage” occurred according to the popular press, where in 1879, 16 cases of vitriol attacks were widely reported as crimes of passion, perpetrated predominantly by women against other women.[7] Much was made of the idea that women, no matter how few, had employed violence as means to an end. On October 17, 1915 acid was fatally thrown on Prince Leopold Clement of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, heir to the House of Koháry, by his distraught mistress, Camilla Rybicka, who then killed herself. Sensationalizing such incidents made for lucrative newspaper sales.(1)

In addition to being favored as a weapon in  labor clashes, sulfuric acid was a common weapon in women-rights-afghanistan-7domestic disputes. For instance, in 1865, the New York Times reported that a  jealous husband was arrested for disfiguring his wife with acid after threatening to “spoil her figure.” In other 19th- and early 20th-century cases,  women threw acid on the men who impregnated them outside of marriage, on  former lovers who spurned them, or on their husbands’ mistresses. Throwing vitriol was a way not only of causing someone immense pain, but also of rendering him or her unattractive, which goes partway toward explaining its use in sexually charged disputes. (A strong base, such as lye, can also  blind and disfigure a victim.)

Acid fell (mostly) out of favor as a weapon of domestic assault in the United States and Western Europe by the mid-20th century, thanks both to better regulation of potentially dangerous chemicals and to women’s increasing economic autonomy. But throwing acid gained prevalence in other parts of the world in the late 20th and early 21st century. In particular, reports of acid violence have increased since the 1960s in South Asia, Southeast Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America. Human rights scholars  note that acid violence is correlated with gender inequality, acid’s cheapness and accessibility, and the failure of courts to convict perpetrators. The Acid Survivors Trust International estimates that 80 percent of victims of acid violence are women, and many perpetrators are men who throw acid as revenge against women who have rejected them sexually. (2)

Today, acid attacks are common in India and other countries in South Asia. Unfortunately, these attacks are also on the rise in the West again due to immigrants from countries where acid attacks are prevalent bringing that vicious practice to the West with them.

(1)“Royal Love Tragedy” The Colonist. Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand. 1916-01-07.

(2)http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2013/02/history_of_acid_violence_when_did_people_start_throwing_vitriol.html

Acid Attack Prevention & First Aid

Acid Attack First Aid And Prevention

Most acid attacks occur in public and when the victim is unaware she is being followed or about to be attacked. Being aware of surroundings and never going out alone could help minimize the risk of being attacked. Unfortunately, acid attack are unpredictable and despite their best efforts, some women still fall prey to their attacker. If burned, it’s essential to get immediate medical attention. Below are suggested safety procedures to follow from Stop Acid Attacks:

Recommended First Aid Procedures For Acid Burns

  1. Immediately wash the burned body part with as much fresh or saline water as possible. Make sure it is cool, not cold.
  2. Don’t use dirty water; it can cause severe infection.
  3. Flush the burned area with  cool water until the victim’s burning sensation begins to fade. This could take 30-45 minutes.
  4. Remove all jewelry and clothing that had contact with the acid.
  5. Do not apply any kind of cream or ointment on the burned area. This could negatively impact medical treatment later prescribed by doctors.
  6. Use sterilized gauze to loosely wrap around the burned area. The gauze protects the skin from air, debris, dirt and contamination.
  7. Rush the victim to a burn specialty facility and/or hospital that has isolated wards for burn patients.

Ongoing Treatment of Wounds

While the wound heals, it is essential for the victim to:

  1. Follow Specific Hygiene Procedures: It is essential to keep the burned area clean to prevent infection. The most common cause of death for acid burns is infection. Make sure the living area, bedroom, bathroom, clothes, sheets, towels, food containers, and other times are sanitized before use or contact with the burn victim. The rooms used by patients should be thoroughly cleaned with disinfectant 2-3 times a day.
  2. Make Sure Wound is Properly Dressed: When wrapping the burned area make sure that the burned skin does not come into contact with other burned skin, to avoid them sticking together.
  3. Physical Therapy: Acid burns affect the nerves under the skin, often permanently damaging them. Nerve damage can cause an inability to move certain body parts. If ignored, nerve damage could cause permanent disability. Regular sessions of physical therapy are critical to ensure that the nerves and affected body parts can heal properly.
  4. Healing After Skin Graft Surgery: Many burn survivors undergo skin grafting, which is a surgical procedure that removes skin from an unaffected area to cover the open wound. Following the hygiene regiments above and prescribed by the doctor are critical for the recovery process.
  5. Maintain A Healthy Diet: A burned body relies on protein-rich food and carbohydrates to rebuild damaged tissue. A nutritionist at a burn unit, clinic, or hospital can advise on proper diet to follow throughout the course of treatment.
  6. Monitor Hemoglobin Levels: Burn injuries cause significant blood loss, which results in very low hemoglobin levels. Surgery is impossible when hemoglobin levels are low, which is why continued monitoring of hemoglobin levels is critical. Blood transfusions and diet are helpful in rebuilding hemoglobin levels.
  7. Consider Corrective Surgery: Many burn survivors undergo multiple corrective surgeries in order to heal contracted skin, reconstruct body parts and features like eyebrows, nostrils, eyes, ears, or mouths, depending on the level of damage and accessibility to plastic surgery.
  8. Long Term Care: Make sure to massage the affected areas twice a day using Contratubex and coconut oil; apply gell sheets to the affected areas 12 hours a day, and wear pressure garments at least 10-12 hours a day.
  9. Seek Emotional & Occupational Support: Burn survivors often must work through deep emotional scars, and doing so with other survivors and with skilled counselors is necessary for the healing process. Unfortunately, social stigmas have detrimental effects on burn survivors; many lose hope and a desire to keep living. All to often burn victims are disowned by their families, depending on the country and community in which they live. They are also ostracized and cast out because the cost of treatment is astronomical and untenable. They are afraid and uncertain about how they could ever reintegrate into society. But many have, and continue to do so, which is what VOW hopes to communicate. Victims have transformed their lives to victors and are helping others recover from a similar trauma they suffered. Organizations and support groups do exist to help survivors become financially self-sufficient. Healing of external and internal scars enables survivors to learn skills, have occupational training, which in turn not only provides an income but also self-esteem and confidence.
Most Common Uses For Nitric/Sulfuric Acid

Nitric/Sulfuric Acid

In some societies acid attacks are a form of punishment used only against women and girls who do not follow a particular cultural norm like arranged marriages or legalized dress codes. Acid attacks are also used in Islamic cultures against men and women who reject and have left Islam.

The acid used is often nitric or sulfuric acid. It is usually thrown at the victim’s face, and so the damage is most often on the face, neck, and hands (as the victim tries to protect herself). However acid burn victims may have damage anywhere on their body depending on how they were attacked.

Although acid attacks have been reported in many countries around the world, they are most common in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, and Pakistan.

Sulfuric acid is a highly corrosive strong mineral acid and form of ethereal. Its major use is for the production of fertilizer, such as superphosphate of lime and ammonium sulfate. Acid, various forms, is widely used to manufacture chemicals for dyes and pigments, explosives, hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, sulfate salts, and synthetic detergents. In poorer countries, acid is widely available as it used to manufacture and process cotton and rubber. Additionally, because little to no rule of law, political corruption, and cultural inequalities in poorer countries exist, women and girls living in these regions face greater risk of being attacked.

It’s chemical compound is:

sulfuric-acid

Why Do Women Get Attacked?

Why Do Women Get Attacked?

There is no valid reason for a crime as heinous as acid attacks. Here are some of the reasons that offenders have given:

  • Family related disputes
  • Dowry disagreements
  • Land Disputes
  • Monetary disputes
  • Property disputes
  • Rejection of love
  • Rejection of proposal
  • Rejection of  sex
 Photo Credit For this Image Of Acid Attack Survivors: Rahul Saharan

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