I was first introduced to the horror — and reality — of acid attacks in Damyanti Biswas’s You Beneath Your Skin. (You can read my review here.) Since then, this issue had been nagging at me. As had Meredith, the main character in Once and Future Queen. I didn’t see the connection; not immediately. And then it came to me: the deeper issue Meredith has to deal with in her community and within herself.
And though both books mentioned above are fiction, the tales of acid attacks within are based on truth.
*If you read on, there will be some graphic violence and images that might upset sensitive readers.
As I’m South African, I decided to focus my research on how acid attacks are perpetrated in my country. And though the stories in the further reading section are varied, the one that stood out to me was Ines Antonio’s. It is the one — especially the medical and legal side of things — that helped me with the reality side of things for one of the characters in Once and Future Queen. You can read loads of articles about Ines here.
Ines Antonio spent years in an abusive relationship. When she finally threatened to leave, her boyfriend doused her with acid. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the attack.
Alex Botha is a plastic surgeon at Johannesburg’s Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, where she’s treated several acid victims. Although she says such cases are rare, their consequences can be horrific.
“[Acid] literally burns your skin off,” she explains.
“Depending on how much acid falls on you and the strength, it can burn deeper structures like muscle and nervous [system] — even bones.”From Acid attacks: ‘I didn’t have the money to buy justice, but I had brains to go on’
Part of me feels icky using a real person to drive this point home. But I’ve learned that sometimes it is necessary to use visuals and reality to make some people listen.
What happened to Ines is because the domestic violence she tried to report to the police went unheard. Which means the police is as much to blame for what happened to her as the violent man who did it. And it all comes back to society: Raising boys to not respect women. And society not caring about violence against women.
No wonder we have this message on our shopping bags:
As a side note on gender based violence, when I read a book where it seems normal to the main character to be beaten up regularly, I DNF. It sends the wrong message. How many girls aren’t told that a boy is being mean to them because they like them and then end up in abusive relationships later in life? I DNF books with that message, too. I’ve said so before in reviews — which doesn’t make me popular. But if we are okay with this type of violence in our fiction, without there being said that it’s not okay by at least one person in the narrative, then what kind of story are we telling ourselves about gender based violence?
There aren’t statistics on acid attacks in South Africa as there isn’t a category to record it in, so it ends up under domestic abuse. And looking at Ines, that’s probably mostly true. But, if you look in my further reading section, acid attacks are used in South Africa when people fight (a woman had her children throw acid on a neighbour), when people get robbed (a man was thrown with acid to rob him), and for fun (an Uber driver got attacked by a passenger who laughed maniacally). Which shows the system is broken.
As you can see in the further reading section, the rate of acid attacks in South Africa isn’t high and the victims aren’t all of the same demographics of those in India (last four) and other countries. Some of the acid attacks in South Africa are by women on women, unlike most acid attacks perpetrated by men on women. All acid attacks have one thing in common, though: Evil intent.
The attacker wants to destroy the victim mentally, emotionally and physically. What most of the acid attack survivors show, though, is that these inhumane attacks cannot break their spirit.
- My favourite group to follow online about surviving acid attacks is Stop Acid Attacks. They have loads of tools, resources and tales of hope.
- Acid attacks: ‘I didn’t have the money to buy justice, but I had brains to go on’
- Meet the women who saved Ines Antonio’s life
- Acid attack Uber driver speaks of ordeal
- Sulphuric acid attack shocks Paarl family
- Woman in KwaZulu-Natal gets 15-year prison sentence after acid attack victim dies
- Attacked with acid, because she said “no” to marriage
- KZN woman in court for allegedly ordering acid attack on matric pupil
- Acid attack victim seeks justice
- Have You Ever Met an Acid Attack Survivor? #WATWB
- Do You Support Disability Rights? – @stopacidattacks #IndiaIsAbled
- Want to Support Acid Attack Survivors? #WATWB
- Have You Met an Acid Attack Survivor?
Were you aware of acid attacks before reading this? Have you ever met an acid attack survivor? What are your thoughts about this heinous act?
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