Doctors, teachers, and complete strangers from across the Bay Area, California, U.S, are rallying behind Atsade Nigese from Ethiopia, who survived a brutal act of domestic violence when her husband poured acid all over her face and body for wanting a divorce.
Speaking through her friend who served as an interpreter, Nigese says her husband, who was a federal police officer in Ethiopia, regularly beat her and broke her teeth.
But one night, a year ago, after she told him she wanted a divorce, he threw acid on her.
Nigese is now blind with scarred skin. Her body is disfigured and even her own son initially rejected her, saying he knew her by her voice but could not identify anything else about her.
Menbere Aklilu of Richmond came to Nigese aid. Two years ago, she helped another Ethiopian woman, who had also been burned by acid, something she said her ex-fiance had thrown on her.
Menbere Akilu, who also survived an abusive relationship, found a way to get Nigese to Amerca. Akilu flew to Ethiopia to see Nigese and invited her to live with her and get some medical help. Akilu said she’d love it if Nigese could one day see again.
“I want her to get her vision, that’s my dream,” Aklilu said.
For nearly seven months, Nigese has been living with Aklilu in California. The two women, both from Ethiopia, share another special bond, one they don’t wish on anyone else, domestic abuse survivors.
“I see myself through her,” Akilu said. “I’m lucky I run from him. So today I have the ability to help others.”
While currently living in Bay Area, California, Nigese is slowly learning to become independent once again. She’s learned to get around using a cane. Three hours a day, five days a week, Nigese learns Braille and English, with volunteers and helpers buy her side.
Doctors from the University of California at San Francisco are donating their time and talents to reconstruct her ears, eyelids nose and mouth again.