One of the most insidious aspects of domestic violence is the way the abuse can linger. Domestic violence victims have to live with the consequences of their abuser’s acts for the rest of their lives. Sadly, these consequences often include physical scars and damage that do not heal naturally.
Plastic and reconstructive surgery aims to restore form and function and to get abused patients a repaired external appearance and allow the victim to return to normal activities without shame or criticism. Surgery often empowers a victim to take back control and return to a routine lifestyle. With a normalization of appearance through corrective surgery, the hold of the attacker on the victim is reduced and the patient’s confidence returns.
Gregory Borah, M.D., WVU professor of plastic, reconstructive and hand surgery and physician in WVU’s Global Health Program, offers perspective on reconstructing the physical scars that remain for survivors of domestic abuse. Recently, he traveled with a group of surgical volunteers from WVU’s J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital to Jaffna, Sri Lanka to help treat survivors who suffer from severe injuries and deformities as a result of domestic abuse and the country’s recently concluded civil war.
“There are often physical wounds from domestic abuse which linger and become always present reminders of the attacker and of the incident which caused the victim so much pain and distress. While these physical injuries can cause decreased function in daily life or are long-standing mars of the patient’s appearance, they become a constant reminder of the abuser and can initiate Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and a fear of social interaction. Often, the attacker has sought to mark the victim as his own and to deter the victim from having normal, social interactions with others.
Changes in outward appearance from abuse can deeply impact a victim’s self-confidence and their limit their ability to be a productive member of society. There is shame and social ostracizing associated with deformities that are visible in day to day life. Abuse victims can become recluses rather than face questions of ‘What happened to you?’ from normal well-meaning people they meet."
Media inquiries for Dr. Borah should be directed to Tara Scatterday at email@example.com
Borah received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School after earning his dental degree at Harvard School of Dental Medicine. He completed a residency in oral and maxillofacial surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he also trained in general surgery. He completed a fellowship in plastic and reconstructive surgery at Yale-New Haven Hospital.
Find out more about domestic violence and abuse at Of the Mindful Physician Tuesday, (Feb. 20) at 5 p.m. in G119A HSC North.
West Virginia University experts can provide commentary, insights and opinions on various news topics. Search for an expert by name, title, area of expertise, or college/school/department in the Experts Database at WVU Today.
Scatterday, Director of Communications and Marketing
WVU School of Medicine
Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.