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Violence against women: scars that do not heal



Women who survive violence must undergo surgery to return to a new normal. In Italy in the last year 125 women were killed; 68 of them by partners or ex.

We talked about this complex topic with Doctor Giorgio Merlino, Director of the department of plastic surgery, hand surgery and microsurgery at the Maria Vittoria Hospital in Turin, who carried out a complex operation on a woman victim of violence by her partner a year and a half ago. The surgeon explained how in surgery we operate on traumas in a standard way, but in these cases, after the surgery, a path is activated to follow the patient 360 degrees.

The operation to smile again

Doctor Giorgio Merlino, Director of the department of plastic surgery, hand surgery and microsurgery at the Maria Vittoria Hospital in Turin

The injury was particularly complex because the lady had been attacked with glass and had deep cuts on her cheek. These wounds disrupted the facial nerve; responsible for innervating the entire musculature of the face. It is the nerve that allows us to smile, frown and blink» the surgeon continues.

The aggression compromised the motility of the woman’s face. The intervention was carried out in emergency and was also fairly long. The operation was done under a microscope because the structures on which it was necessary to intervene were very small and had to be restored. The outcome of the surgery is never immediate, it is necessary to wait from 6 to 8 months, because the nerve needs a rather long time to regenerate.

It is quite common for these events to occur and in this case the result of the operation has been fairly positive.

Overcoming your own fears

Unfortunately, when there are major injuries with fractures of nerve sections caused by burns, caustics from acid or blunt covers, it is not a question of being able to choose whether to be operated or not. In fact, in many cases it is strongly necessary to undergo the operation. Of course, these ladies are afraid of surgery, but they have to perform the surgery.

The surgical path is not very different from the one you undertake for other traumas. It is, however, evident that in these cases a series of contacts and realities are activated to help the patient from a psychological point of view. Psychologists and social centers are activated directly in the hospital to follow the patient from an overall point of view.

There are often problems with the access of relatives when these people are admitted. Sometimes the aggressor also wants to visit the patient, creating legal problems that, case by case, must be addressed.

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