Trigger warning: acid attack

On March 17, 21-year-old Hofstra University student Nafiah Fatima was the victim of an acid attack. The incident occurred in the driveway of her home in Elmont, New York. Her neighbour’s security footage captured the perpetrator throw what is thought to be battery acid in her face and run away.

Police are currently looking for the perpetrator who is yet to be identified and there is currently a $10,000 reward being offered to anyone who can identify the suspect or offer information that leads to his arrest.

As a result of the attack, Nafiah suffered chemical burns to her face, arms and chest. Since the attack she has spent 15 days in the hospital. A GoFundMe campaign has been set up by her friend and neighbour, Shazia Anjum.

Shazia explains:

“Had the acid gotten into Nafiah’s lungs she would have died. When Nafiah screamed it caused the acid to go into her mouth, burning her tongue and throat, which prevented her from breathing. When Nafiah ran into her house and her parents saw her, they immediately tried to help her, but in the process the acid burned their hands and forearms as well. If her parents were not home to help her and call 911 right away, she would not have made it.

The acid caused severe burning on Nafiah’s face, eyes, chest, and arms. Nafiah was wearing contact lenses that night and the acid melted the contact lenses onto her eyes. We don’t know if Nafiah will ever regain vision again. “

Nafiah has stayed incredibly strong throughout this horrific event. Her only wish is that the attacker is caught so that she can feel safe in her own home. 

What are acid attacks?

An acid attack is a form of violent assault involving the act of throwing acid onto the body of another with the intent to harm. Most victims of the attacks are women. According to Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI), globally there are 1,500 recorded acid attacks every year where 80% of attacks are on women. In fact, it is estimated that 60% of acid attacks go unreported each year. This is likely because many live in fear of reprisal. 

They are most common in cases of domestic violence; moreover, they have been used in the rising hate crimes against Asians. Globally, most attacks occur in South Asia. Acid is inexpensive and freely available to purchase in countries such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. 

Society has heavily placed a woman’s worth and value on their beauty. Men have weaponized on this, and as an expression to gain control – threats of acid attacks and carrying out acid attacks against women is one of the many forms of gendered violence. Acid attacks are among the most inhumane forms of violence against women. And cases such as Nafiah’s, where she didn’t have any previous encounter with the perpetrator, are enough to send shockwaves to all women. 

To not feel safe in your own home because someone can come up to you and throw acid is horrific. These acts of violence are a constant and cruel reminder to women of their place in the patriarchal society. 

The impact of acid attacks

Acid attacks cause permanent physical scarring as well psychological and social scarring too. Surgery is needed immediately after and the impact of the acid burns on survivors is life-long. The recovery process in itself after the surgery can take many years. 

Furthermore, the way society has long viewed acid attack survivors has been particularly negative, causing survivors to feel socially isolated and lonely. Being mindful and supporting victims can help remove the stigma attached.

UK-based international non-profit organisation, ASTI, works to destigmatize and share survivor stories as well as aim to end acid violence at a global level. A significant way to end acid violence is by governments putting laws in place to limit the ease and availability of acid. ASTI’s work has brought about real change and includes getting involved in successful campaigns. These campaigns have introduced laws in Cambodia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Columbia and most recently the UK. 

Acid attacks take a couple seconds to occur; however, the consequences on the victim are permanent and difficult.

Read also: 
An Open Letter From An Acid Attack Survivor
Sexual Assault Is The “Norm” For Undocumented Immigrants
Freedom Fighters Of South Asia: A Women’s History Month Special