Woman who lost eye in ‘devil acid’ attack at work still feels ‘beautiful’

A woman maimed in an acid attack nine years ago has launched a campaign to lift the stigma and push for tougher punishments in the Dominican Republic, where attacks against women are common.

Tragically, 1,500 women die or are left brutally disfigured from acid attacks every year worldwide, according to the British NGO Acid Survivors Trust International.

Esther Jimenez, 36, is one of these women and recently gave a video interview describing the effect it has had on her life and her refusal to hide away her face.

She was attacked by a man in her workplace, who threw a corrosive substance known as "devil acid" in her face.

Esther has undergone 27 painful surgeries to mitigate the consequences of the attack and still feels like a "beautiful woman" despite the severe damage to her face.

Recalling the attack in 2011, in the cafe where she worked, she says: "A guy came to the cafe and said: 'Here you have what you have been sent.'"

People in the cafe rushed to pour water on her wounds to ease the pain and took her to a nearby hospital, from which she was transferred to the burn unit of the Luis Eduardo Aybar hospital in Santo Domingo.

"I thought I was never going to make it there," she says.

"I asked my sister what my face looked like. My sister, who is an outspoken person, answered: 'like a wrinkled paper'.

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"I didn't care at all. The only thing on my mind was to be done with the excruciating pain."

Nobody was ever held responsible for the sick attack and Esther assumes it was an act of jealousy.

Acid attacks against women in the country are almost an everyday occurrence and 14% of all patients treated for burns in the Luis Eduardo Aybar hospital's burn unit, one of only two in the country, are victims of acid attacks.

Currently, acid attacks are punishable by up to five years in jail in the Dominican Republic.

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Esther was sent home after an initial hospital stay, but it took around four years with multiple admissions after that for the injuries to heal.

Meanwhile, her nose drooped, she lost sight in one eye so it had to be removed, and she underwent a number of surgeries to transplant skin from different parts of her body to her face and neck.

She says: "When my mum saw me like this, she told me that she could not bear it because I was her little daughter.

"She died because of it, it was a very painful moment for me. I lost a lot of things.

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"I lost my alleged friends and also my boyfriend at that time.

"It was such a strong pain what you feel with this. I even had to walk holding my breasts because everything was falling apart and hurting."

Esther talks about her experience on her Instagram account and has more than 70,000 followers.

She has become a role model and receives lots of messages of support, with women often thanking her for sharing her story and helping to break the acid attack taboo.

Esther adds: "Before I had the acid thrown on me, I felt beautiful.

"And even like this, burned, I look in the mirror, I look at this little eye that I cannot close properly, and still I say 'look at the beautiful eye. I feel beautiful anyway'.

"I am the same person, it does not matter what a woman goes through, everything depends on what you decide to feel like."

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