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Face Forward gives woman beaten by husband new start

June 1, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
A woman who was disfigured after being beaten by her husband has found new hope thanks to the local reconstructive surgery group, Face Forward. She hopes her story will help other women who are domestic violence victims.

On her 28th birthday 20 years ago, the woman, who only wanted to be identified as Saundra, was beat unconscious and left on the sidewalk by her 6 foot 2 ex-Marine husband.

Saundra survived the initial beating, but a horrible infection that followed nearly finished her off and destroyed the right side of her face.

"This is maybe a thousand times better than what it looked like, I know that's hard to believe, but there was no skin here before, no muscle, nothing," said Saundra.

Dozens of surgeries later, her right eye won't close and she can't open her mouth fully. Her children are often the target of ridicule because of how their mother looks, but Saundra says they remain brave.

"Not one of my children has ever been embarrassed by the way I look, and I can't say enough of how grateful I am for that," said Saundra.

But thanks to plastic surgeon Dr. David Alessi and Face Forward, a group dedicated to helping restore the lives of victims of domestic abuse, she's getting the chance to work on herself.

Surgery is helping Saundra restore form and function to her face, but Alessi says she gives back more than receives.

"She's a voice for women who have been victims of domestic violence, and getting the word out there to other women who aren't as out coming as Saundra is or haven't gone through the steps of healing like Saundra has done, she's such an inspiration to them," said Alessi.

As Saundra's face continues to heal on the outside, she says what's most important is she feels healed on the inside.

"I get up and I am so grateful for everything that I have, but it was a lot of hard work. You have to get up, you have to keep going," she said.

With the help of her church, Habitat for Humanity and other caring groups, Saundra now has a job, a home and she counsels other women struggling with abuse.

"You don't have to settle, you are special and you matter," she said.

Face Forward has given free surgeries to more than a dozen victims of domestic violence. The organization will hold a fundraiser this September. Saundra will be on hand to share more of her story.

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