Acid attacks

The latest spate of acid attacks in the UK has horrified the world. Last month, two victims in East London were attacked by a man who splashed acid through their car window. They suffered horrific injuries all over their body and face.

As news of the acid attacks surface on social media, more people are mustering courage to report other acid attacks. In a separate incident, a 32-year-old man in East London was attacked when two male riders pulled up alongside him and threw acid on his face. The victim was left with life changing facial injuries.

The first ever reported acid attacks took place when sulfuric acid became commonly available in England during the 1740s. Overtime, the acid was being used as a weapon in the US and Western Europe. According to the Acid Survivors Trust International, around 1,500 cases of acid attacks are recorded annually.

The reported figures are socially constructed where they may be under reporting or under recording.  The actual number is much higher. Many acid victims may not come forward and report the crime due to the fear of reprisal. Moreover, the lack of reported statistics makes it difficult to determine whether acid attacks are increasing or more victims are coming forward. Acid attacks are indiscriminate in nature where even men have fallen victim to this sinister crime. There is also a misconception that acid attacks are prevalent only in South Asia. However the reported attacks are taking place in almost every corner of the world.  There have been many sinister acid attacks in Iran.

An acid attack is a heinous crime which lasts a lifetime. The perpetrator uses acid as a weapon to cause grievous bodily harm. The crime not only destroys the victim’s face but it also destroys their sense of self and worth (without killing them). The victim has to come to terms with the fact that they have been stripped of their identity and their life changes forever. It is a walking dead situation for the victim who suffers from physical and psychological trauma. Most victims need to go for dozens of surgeries in order to recover. There is no singular reason behind most acid attacks. They can be related to acts of jealousy, honour crimes, gang violence, revenge etc.

While bringing the culprits to justice is imperative, the unrestricted sale of acid and other corrosive substances should be regulated. The sale of harmful acid is readily obtainable for anyone to purchase.