The Face to Face program helps those affected by domestic violence return to a normal lifestyle

More than 5 million women per year are affected by domestic violence in the United States. More than 1 million of these victims require medical treatment for facial injuries, but they fail to receive it because of monetary constraints.

To help these victims, in 1994 the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS) teamed up with the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV)—the umbrella group for the majority of domestic violence shelters in the United States—to develop Face to Face: The National Domestic Violence Project. It offers counseling, support, and complimentary surgery to help victims break out of the cycle of abuse, enhance their self-esteem, and begin to rebuild their lives.

More than 300 facial plastic surgeons in 44 states have donated their talents and services; they have conducted approximately 1,500 surgeries. The AAFPRS’ goal is to have at least one volunteer physician in every state. The organization is currently seeking additional facial plastic and reconstructive surgeons in all states who will provide complimentary consultation and surgery to eligible patients.

“It is vitally important that patients who are victims of domestic violence realize that there is someplace that they can get help,” says Edwin F. Williams III, MD, FACS, medical director of the Williams Center for Excellence in Latham, NY. “By calling a toll-free number and being put in touch with a surgeon who participates in the program, they can often go through the program and have the deformity or scar removed. Psychologically, it is a huge impact by being able to return to their life without the daily reminder of their previous physical and psychological injury.”

Eligible Patients
To be eligible for this program, victims must be women, men, and children who are survivors of domestic violence and who have suffered trauma to their face, head, or neck. The most common procedure performed by AAFPRS surgeons is the removal of violence-caused scars; nose and cheek reconstructions are also high on the list.

Physicians know how hard it is for victims of abuse to make the initial call for help. The AAFPRS and NCADV offer a toll-free number—(800) 842-4546—that is answered 24 hours per day. During the initial call, the victims are screened to determine whether their injuries are a result of domestic violence, to ascertain that they are out of the abusive relationship, and to obtain a brief description of the injuries sustained.

The survivor is then given the name of a domestic-violence shelter in his or her area and is advised to set up an appointment with a domestic-violence counselor in the program. This appointment has two purposes: to receive verification from an independent source that the injuries are the result of domestic violence, and to ensure that all participants are attending a local domestic-violence program. It is anticipated that the individuals requesting services will have been out of the violent situation for at least 1 year.

The shelter counselor then contacts the AAFPRS domestic-violence coordinator to confirm that the individual has begun the inner healing process and is out of the abusive relationship. The next step is a referral to a local AAFPRS surgeon who will provide complimentary consultation and surgery.

Seeking Physicians’ Help
Face to Face depends on physicians to make a difference. Although surgeons and other medical personnel give freely of their time and expertise, Face to Face still needs funding to cover ancillary expenses and appreciates donations of medical supplies and equipment.

Face to Face also relies on plastic surgeons everywhere to publicize the program. Physicians should contact police departments, shelters, and social-work agencies to make them aware of the program and to put them in touch with the AAFPRS and the NCADV.

For more information about the program or to make a donation, contact