‘Why disfigure me?’

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A commuter whose face was severely disfigured when acid was flung at her has described how the apparently random act has changed her life.

Susan Forgives (23) originally from Zimbabwe and who is using this assumed name to protect her identity, was attacked in the city centre in Cape Town nearly three weeks ago.

“Some days are better, some days are worse. Sometimes I think if I’d just stayed home that day it would never have happened.

“It just doesn’t make sense. . . Why did it happen to me? Am I that bad?

“I’ve thought about it, I thought I would just die. Then I wake up and tell myself it’ll be okay,” Susan, a receptionist, broke down and cried as she spoke.

She was attacked on August 30 shortly after boarding a taxi in Sea Point which was also used by two men. In Strand Street the men asked to be dropped off and as they left, one took out a bottle and threw a liquid on her face.

It turned out to be acid.

One man was arrested and is in police custody.

The motive for the attack is still unclear. Last Sunday, Susan’s head was still covered in thick bandages, which were expected to come off on Monday. Only part of the right side of her face showed.

Speaking softly, Susan said she sometimes thought about the day she was attacked by a man she does not know, but who she has already forgiven.

“When I’m alone it’s tough. Something just crosses my mind and I picture myself in the taxi
. . . I really know myself. I’m not a bad person. I try to do good things, maybe things people my own age aren’t even doing. Then why did it happen?” she asked.

“I can’t do anything now. I can’t go to work. I don’t want to stay home all the time. I don’t want to be sick all the time. But I am,” she said.

When she wept, Braam Hanekom, head of refugee rights group People Against Suffering, Suppression, Oppression and Poverty, comforted her and helped wipe her tears away.

Susan planned to reveal her identity to the public at a later stage.

“One day I’ll definitely tell them who I am. So they’ll understand who I was before this,” she said.
At this, Mark van der Velde, a doctor who has offered to operate on Susan pro bono (for the public good), said she had not changed.

“Susan, you’re still the same person. It’s just cosmetic changes,” he said.

Susan was receiving trauma counselling.
Last week she had skin grafted from her leg, a painful procedure.

Van der Velde said reconstruction would still have to be done to her left shoulder and her left ear. Her nose may need to be grafted and she may undergo stem cell therapy and fat grafting.

Balloons would have to be placed under Susan’s healthy skin to stretch it so the skin could then be used on injured areas.

These operations would be spaced over about four years and would cost about R450 000.

Susan’s employers, doctors Elisabeth and Cyril Parker, were paying her even though she was unable to be at work.

They were also helping her raise funds for her skin graft operations.

Susan, who recently joined Facebook under the name Susan Forgives and started a Twitter account, @SusanForgives, thanked everyone who had sent her a message of support and who were helping her.

“Thank you. I’m so grateful I don’t know how to say thank you properly,” she said.