The survivor of a brutal attack is finally on the road to recovery and undergoing reconstructive surgery in California.
Atsede Niguse was at her mother’s house in the village of Adigrat, northern Ethiopia, seeking a divorce from her estranged husband.
One night, in July 2017, he crawled out from behind a bush and threw battery acid in Niguse’s face as she stood at the door, distorting her and dazzling her.
After hearing the story, Menbere Aklilu, who lives in the Bay Area, helped Niguse obtain a humanitarian visa and escorted her to the US to seek treatment.
Niguse is aided pro bono by several organizations, including Saint Francis Memorial Hospital and Face Forward, that help reconstruct her nose, mouth and eyes, and hopefully help them regain sight.
She hopes her story can inspire other women to speak out about their own domestic violence and leave before it’s too late.
In July 2017, Atsede Niguse received battery acid in Ethiopia from her estranged husband, from whom she wanted to file for divorce. The mother of one was badly burned, lost her nose and one ear, and was blinded by the attack. Picture: Niguse before the attack, left and after the attack, right
In October 2018, California-based Menbere Aklilu obtained a visa to go to Ethiopia and to be Niguse to the United States for treatment. Pictured: Niguse with her son before the attack
In Ethiopia, Niguse studied biology at Hawassa University and hoped to become a teacher while also running a cosmetics business.
Her husband, a police officer, forced her to marry him and beat her every night for almost six years.
“He hit her while she was pregnant and for her son,” Aklilu, with whom Niguse lives, told DailyMail.com.
After a particularly brutal beating that had her teeth beaten, she filed for divorce and took their son, Honeybun, with her.
Between six and eight months later, he hid behind a bush and waited for her to return to her mother’s house. As she stood at the door, he attacked her with acid.
“He said to her,” This acid is nothing; I want to kill you, “said Aklilu.
Niguse lost most of her nose and one of her ears. Being hit directly in the face, she was blinded by the attack. Her husband has yet to be charged.
“He took away my face and identity,” said Niguse.
Aklilu heard about her story on Facebook.
She was in a relationship with the young woman because she herself is a survivor of domestic violence in her native Ethiopia, where she was an actress.
She’s finally undergoing reconstructive surgery at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital and by Face Forward, a nonprofit. Pictured: Niguse after the attac
She says her husband burned her face with a cigarette and tried to kill her several times until she eventually ran away while nine months pregnant.
Aklilu gave birth in a women’s shelter in Rome, where the couple had moved.
“So when I saw her story, I thought I could give this person a hand,” she said.
“Her son is so cute and I see my son in him, so I want to help her.”
Aklilu had an Ethiopian journalist who contacted Niguse and, after three unsuccessful attempts, got a visa in October 2018 and flew to Ethiopia to meet Niguse, who lived in a shelter, and took her to her home in Richmond, California, to bring.
“She is very strong. I’ve never seen anyone as strong as they have been. I never see her moan or complain, “Aklilu said.
Immediately after the attack, Niguse was treated in her village before seeking care in Vejthani Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand.
However, she did not have much money and once she was unable to pay anymore, the hospital told her there was nothing else to do.
Eventually, she received a humanitarian visa to undergo reconstructive surgery in the U.S. and left her son to stay with her mother and sister.
She received her first surgery at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco in May 2019, and doctors say a future corneal graft can help her regain her eyesight.
She is also aided by Face Forward, a non-profit organization that performs reconstructive facial work in severe cases.
Niguse had her first of several nasal reconstruction surgeries on Friday and it will be a process that will take about a year and a half.
Doctors hope to help Niguse regain sight, and she hopes to use her story to raise awareness of domestic violence against women. Pictured: Niguse with her son before the attack
“Aklilu told me that [Niguse] After her first surgery, “Oh, I’m in worse pain than this, this isn’t pain,” Mandi Budd, Executive Director of Face Forward, told DailyMail.com.
“And I thought, ‘Wow, what a ghost she has!'”
Niguse has made speeches about her story, including one for International Women’s Day in Los Angeles, and hopes to give her son a visa to come to the US.
“She wants to be independent, help others,” said Aklilu.
“She never gives up. She dreams of being someone who finishes her school and is an example to other women. ‘
Aklilu says she hopes other women will feel comfortable telling her that they are experiencing domestic violence.
“People, they need to learn from her story and my story, it’s okay to tell other people what happened to you,” she said.
“In our country, in Ethiopia, domestic violence is a secret, child abuse is a secret. You can tell your story. You can save another person, your children and grandchildren. ‘