ASTI, Harvard Medical School and Brigham Women’s Hospital team discussing mental trauma programme with acid attack survivors in Bogota, Colombia.
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Project ASCENT is a partnership between ASTI, Brigham Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Harvard Medical School to deliver mental health services, raise awareness and drive policy change at a global level.
Beyond physical pain and disabling injuries, acid attack victims suffer emotional trauma, depression, and social isolation that does deep, long-term damage to their cognitive and emotional resilience and psychological well-being. This is highly significant because biomedical research has clearly linked the impact of psychological damage to physical well-being. The level of depression and chronic pain in burn trauma survivors is particularly high, and contributes to poorer recovery rates and quality-of-life scores. If these symptoms remain overlooked or undertreated—as so often is the case for women and children of acid violence—their ability to effectively recover from such attacks is often severely compromised and leads to further marginalization of an already disregarded group.
ASTI has seen how mental health services are often underdeveloped, misunderstood, and infrequently utilized. To address the gap in care, ASTI is partnering with Brigham Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School to create an evidence-based, scalable models for mental healthcare of acid violence survivors.
We intend to test for effectiveness, sustainability, and scalability across multiple clinical sites, and countries. To ensure sustainability this project will be delivered in partnership with the Colombian Ministry of Health and Social Protection, The Secretary of Health (Bogota), The Women’s Secretariat (Bogota), local survivor groups and the Simon Bolivar Hospital. We will evaluate the Bogota pilot’s effectiveness and adapt the service delivery approach and clinical model with aim to replicate elsewhere. We are grateful to our local in-country partners who have provided so much help and support in developing the pilot design. We also wish to extend our gratitude to DBAY Advisors for generously funding the scoping phase of the project.
A project meeting with representatives of the Secretary of Health (Bogota) and Women’s Secretariat.
Whilst the UK and international media focus has highlighted the very serious rise of acid violence here in the UK, cases in Europe are largely going unheard. Recently, a number of European survivors including Lucia Annibali, Gessica Notaro and Patricia Lefranc have spoken out about their experiences.
The EU does not publish any specific records on acid or corrosive substance violence which makes it very hard to understand how widespread the problem is in Europe, but they do have nation records on violent assaults and sexual violence with the most up-to-date figures being for 2016. Using the UK figures as a benchmark, ASTI has used the numbers provided by the EU alongside media reports to determine estimates via the percentages of acid violence that comprise over all assaults.
We estimate that there may be as many as 3000 attacks per year in Europe alone, many of which go unreported. In addition to the UK, the other countries likely to experience high number of attacks include Italy and France. Due to the rise of attacks in the UK, the British Government is introducing new legislation to control sale of acids.
ASTI calls on the EU to tighten controls on sale of acids (as well as other corrosives) and to commission research to better understand the true scale of the problem across Europe.
In light of the worrying increase of attacks in Europe, ASTI has partnered with Belgian survivor Patricia Lefranc who was attacked in 2009, to campaign for a Europe wide change in the law to restrict the easy accessibility of acid. Our campaign video was made by The Operators Creative with music provided by Ann-Christine Woehrl and features Patricia calling for an end to acid violence.
Please watch and share.
The terrible human cost of acid attacks is well-known, but what is less clear is the economic cost to UK and European society. ASTI partnered with Frontier Economics to produce an economic impact assessment of the cost of acid attacks to UK society. The analysis is the first of its kind, taking wider societal costs into consideration, including costs to the criminal justice system, medical and rehabilitation, and the victims themselves as a result of an acid attack.
Costs to UK
Costs to Europe
As a rough extrapolation for the costings, ASTI estimated the number of attacks in Europe and multiplied them by the amount it costs in the UK (converted to Euros).