Free cosmetic procedures help victims of domestic violence regain their identity

CHICAGO (CBS) — For many victims of domestic violence, the pain and trauma associated with their experience never goes away.

But a local surgeon hopes to help them heal – at least physically – by offering free cosmetic procedures.

As CBS 2’s Marybel González reported Thursday night, the initiative is helping survivors regain their identity.

“How could someone you love do this?” said a woman, Jessica.

It’s a question that’s been on Jessica’s mind for years — and one she hasn’t been able to answer.

“In November 2019 I was dating this guy. We were in bed with my kid, who was 2 at the time,” she said, “and out of nowhere we were watching a movie — he just attack me at random.”

The attack was so brutal that it made Jessica unrecognizable.

“He started choking and beating me. I lost consciousness five times. My head went through the drywall,” she said. “He broke my nose, caused me over 27 stitches in my face – because my teeth went through my lip here and here, and my teeth went through my chin.”

The violent assault took years of recovery.

“I hated smiling. It hurt. I didn’t want to smile,” Jessica said. “I watch myself trying to get ready, and it’s like it’s a daily reminder of this guy trying to get rid of my life in front of my kid.”

So Jessica decided to do something about it. She connected online with Maribel García, the founder of Break the Silence Foundation – a Berwyn-based organization focused on advocating for survivors of domestic violence.

García is a survivor herself.

“I tell them, you know, let me take your hand and walk through this desert with you,” she said.

Through her organization, García helps survivors like Jessica with resources like Face to Face, a nationwide project that provides victims of assault with free cosmetic procedures to help them physically heal.

“When they are ready, we work with the outside,” García said.

Dr. Benjamin Caughlin is the plastic surgeon who works in Chicago.

“It’s one of those things that can be really profound for the patient – even the smallest benefit or the smallest change we can make,” he said.

Dr. Caughlin has been working with Jessica for over a year now – removing the scar tissue on her face that she still struggles with due to her violent attack.

“I’m just a spoke in the wheel to make things better,” Caughlin said.

These small changes helped Jessica regain her power and identity.

“I don’t want to see that anymore. I don’t want to see his mark on me anymore,” she said, “and I think that’s important because it’s like, you don’t want those reminders. You want to be able to move on and get over that. I think that helps close that door.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, help is available. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at (800) 799-SAFE.

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