Psychological Impact Of Acid Attack On Its Victims/Survivors

Psychological Impact Of Acid Attack On Its Victims/Survivors

acid attack

People in 18th-century Europe ascribe the start of the horrible crime of acid assaults. On the cheap availability of acid during the period of the industrial revolution. This newfound preference for acid as a weapon resulted in a ‘wave of vitriolage’. In France, nearly 88 cases were reported within a short span of two years between the period of 1888-1890. According to reports, the first known acid attack occurred in India in 1968. As time went on, acid attacks expanded to other countries, including India. Acid assault or vitriol is the act of throwing or sprinkling acid on someone with the goal of wounding, disfiguring, hurting, maiming, murdering, or injuring them.

Until the implementation of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 2013, the acid attack was not even recognized as a separate offence. Due to this its victims/survivors remained neglected for a long. The conversation about these victims’ mental health has mostly focused on their need for medical care and justice. The severity of physical injuries resulting from acid attacks garnered most of the attention at the cost of other aspects of the crime. In an attempt to enhance our understanding of the impact of the victimization experience on the mental health of acid attack victims. We decided to collect narratives from 15 female victims of acid attacks and analyse them using thematic content analysis.

Emergency themes indicate that the major impact on the mental health of an acid attack involves feelings of loss of identity, betrayal trauma, hopelessness, self-blame, social exclusion and cognitive biases. Often times the intention of an acid attack offender is not to kill the victim. Although to push them into a life of misery by disfiguring their faces. With greater emphasis on ‘beauty’ for women, acid attack results in severe damage to the identities of these victims. For instance, one victim reported that she felt that the loss of face had ruined her life to a great extent. Moreover, the prejudiced attitudes of society further restrict the development of new identities by denying them jobs and social acceptance.

Psychological impact on acid attack

These victims also experienced betrayal trauma as a result of the violation of their trust in humanity and in the individuals responsible for protecting them. One victim expressed shock that her own spouse. Who was meant to be her saviour really ended up being the abuser. Hopelessness is another symptom commonly manifested by the victims of acid attacks. Often this hopelessness is about various aspects of future life. Such as finding a new job, getting married, and pursuing higher education.

Frequent rejection during job interviews and social interactions is what fuels these feelings of hopelessness among the victims. Many of these victims also revealed sentiments of shame and self-blame. Especially in hindsight, which was evident in words like “had I not.” For instance, one victim said that had she not slapped him probably he would not have victimized her. Many of these victims also believed that the world is just and their suffering is a consequence of past sins. Some even overgeneralized their victimization experience onto their other life experiences. By believing that they will continue to remain victims throughout their lives. Such cognitive biases, according to researchers, negatively impacted their rehabilitation process. Another outcome of the acid attack is the social exclusion of the victims. It further results in mental health issues as a consequence of such exclusion. 

Social exclusion results often because literature and media frequently portray beauty as possessing positive traits and disfigured and ugly as evil. For example, the “Two Faces” in Batman, villains in Bollywood movies and demons in the mythology often have deformities. Stigma and the fear of crime are also behind the occurrence of such social exclusion of acid attack victims.
Some of the readers might have noticed the use of both the terms, “victims” and “survivors” in the title of the current article. This is not because of confusion but is instead a deliberate attempt to throw light on a very important issue related to the mental health of these victims. Being a legal terminology, the scientific literature also often uses the term ‘victim’. Using the word “survivor,” which is more active, has become increasingly prevalent over time. However, it is important to note that there is a lack of linguistic options that can describe the victimization and recovery experiences of these individuals. Both these terms have their advantages and disadvantages. Forcing a victim to feel like a survivor denies them appropriate time to deal with their grief.

Reminding a survivor repeatedly of their victimization experiences prevents their recovery process. It is significant to highlight that these phrases frequently label and influence these people’s identities. People sometimes forget that the original intent of these terminologies was to describe their experiences. As opposed to defining their whole identity based on a single occurrence. Giving these sufferers prompt first aid and medical attention is the first stage in their rehabilitation. In addition to that informational social support in the form of information about physical and mental health professionals, legal procedures, laws and compensation schemes also plays an important role in their recovery. One of the most significant factors in their ability to regain their mental health was emotional support. They got from family, friends, or the larger community.

Researchers discovered that those who had an optimistic outlook on life fared better in their recuperation. Lastly, it is crucial to note that there is a lack of mental health professionals dealing with the mental health issues of acid attack victims. However, researchers advise undertaking further studies to ascertain whether therapies like Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy are beneficial in treating victims of acid attacks. Often, the recovery of victims of acid attacks victims remains incomplete. However, the implementation of these factors may set them on the path of recovery. They may be able to better focus on the tasks of their daily lives. 

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