By Regina Varolli
Friday, November 5, 2010
In December a victim of domestic violence will have her reconstruction surgery broadcast in a Discovery Health documentary. She wasn't looking for this publicity, but had given up on a pro-bono referral service that in her case broke down.
With 400 doctors in the FACE TO FACE program and an average of 150 applicants a year, not all doctors will get assigned a patient.
While Morales was waiting to heal from the treatment of a single scar, she got an e-mail from blogger DiBari.
The Discovery Health Channel was looking for victims of domestic violence who couldn't move on with their lives because of physical disfigurement. Announcements were posted on several Web sites, including Help A Reporter Out.
Alexis A. Moore, president of Survivors in Action, a grassroots advocacy group for victims of domestic violence, had partnered with DiBari in trying to get help for Morales. She saw the notice on the reporters' site and e-mailed it to DiBari on July 9. DiBari immediately forwarded it to Morales.
Morales jumped to apply before the July 12 deadline.
Morales was accepted to appear in the documentary, "Facing Trauma," airing on Discovery Health in December.
"It's not that I wanted to be on TV, but this was the only way I was going to get the help I needed. I was lucky really," Morales said. "But now I wonder about all the other women who don't find the help they need."
Morales wound up having her extensive surgery performed in a single operation by Jacono, chair of the FACE TO FACE program, on camera in August.
Jacono, an activist for survivors of domestic violence, told Women's eNews that he personally called every woman in the FACE TO FACE database but none were willing or able to appear on television.
"It's a lot to ask of a woman who has already suffered so much. Many of them live in fear, and most don't want to go public with their stories," Jacono said.
Morales thought she was applying to Jacono's program through the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. But Jacono said his group didn't receive the application.
"FACE TO FACE has a database and Ilianexy wasn't in there, that's why she didn't hear from us," he said.
"We checked our records and the application was forwarded on to FACE TO FACE," said Rita Smith, executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, about the missing application. "I suspect it's possible there was a typographical error in the data entry and that's why it's not coming up in their database, but we did give it to them. Maria Luisa O'Neill is working with Michelle at FACE TO FACE now to try to see where it is in their system."
Smith said she doesn't know how the referral service can be improved, given the privacy barriers between her group and the pro-bono surgery groups. But her organization will try to do something to improve the process for other applicants.
"Maria Luisa is now talking with FACE TO FACE about ways they can communicate on a little more regular basis to try to facilitate a smoother operation of the program," Smith said.
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Regina Varolli is a freelance writer based in Manhattan. She blogs about Food at The Huffington Post and Culinary Sagacity.
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence Cosmetic and Reconstructive Support Program:
Maria DiBari's Blog 4survivors:
Survivors in Action:
FACE TO FACE: