The face is one of the most delicate and vulnerable areas of the body. In physical fights, it is unfortunately usually the face that gets a lot of damage.
According to some estimates, injuries to the face from assaults are rising. By deliberately injuring somebody’s face, you do not just cause them the pain and anguish of being attacked, the victim is sometimes left with a permanent reminder of the assault. In many cases, the scars are plain to see and other people can find them intimidating, off-putting, or scary.
The impact of facial disfigurement can have is astounding. Lower educational and job prospects, mental health issues, social exclusion; the list of negative effects from being disfigured is far too long. Possibly the worst irony is that people with facial disfigurements from injuries are sometimes the victims of hate crimes because of their disability. These forms of hate crimes are vastly underreported, according to research from Changing Faces.
An article in the Independent from 2017 quotes research that found 80,000 people got glassed in the face that year -that is, having a glass object like a pint glass or bottle smashed into the face or neck. The same article quotes statistics that estimates that “5000 serious, life-changing injuries” happen every year. From glass alone, that’s around a staggering 100 people every week who are significantly or permanently disfigured. People lose eyes, noses, have extensive scarring across their faces, can lose their sense of smell and taste, and may suffer from lasting mental problems as a result.
Glass is, of course, not the only weapon used to injure people’s faces. Knives, boiling water, and even acid have been used to deliberately disfigure. The government has funded some research into glass that is less likely to cause injury, but the results have not been published yet.
Knives and other sharp objects
The most common method for facially disfiguring someone deliberately is with a knife or other sharp object. Knife attacks to the face that are not life-threatening are relatively easy to repair. Sharp knives leave scars that can be fairly easily hidden in many cases. However, it is not uncommon for people setting out to wound somebody severely to use more horrifying methods. Putting two blades together on a knife handle makes the wound much wider and almost impossible to suture properly without leaving extensive scarring. This has been a common method for gangs for a very long time.
Most knife attacks happen when people are drunk. Most happen on Friday or Saturday nights. Most of the victims are males and most of the perpetrators are unsurprisingly male too. Drugs and alcohol also play a massive role in violent crimes of all sorts, facial disfigurement included.
Recent statistics have shown that the use of acid in assaults has become more prevalent in the UK in recent years. According to the Acid Survivors Trust International, or ASTI, the UK is one of the acid attack capitals of the world. In 2016, over 601 people were attacked with acid in the UK. In London, the number of attacks has almost doubled since 2015.
Acid attacks have become a common method for gangs, and most of the perpetrators and victims are young men. A disproportionate number of attackers and victims are African Caribbean and Asians in London. As usual with violence, poverty, and social exclusion are thought to play big roles. Steps have been made to make buying acid much more difficult, but it appears that this is a problem that is only going to get worse.
Effects on the victim
Facial disfigurement is one of the most seriously affecting assaults to mental health. With the scars visible, the victim gets not only daily reminders of the attack and the pain caused, but other people do too.
Research from the charity Changing Faces has found that half of the people with facial disfigurements in the UK feel like it has impacted their career. 90% have suffered harassment on internet dating sites, and about half feel that the education post-school has been negatively impacted.
The criminal injuries compensation scheme set up by the government provides compensation to people who have suffered attacks of a violent nature. If you have been the victim of an assault, you can claim compensation in order to help you receive the help that you need to recover. Each case is unique and the amount of money awarded changes according to each case. Taken into account are mental and physical injuries, abuse, loss of earnings, and special expenses payments. For serious, life-changing events the compensation can be upwards of £30,000. You can find more information on the government website.