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Face Forward program helps victims of violence to move on

Beverly Hills, Calif. — David Alessi, M.D., sees some of the world’s most beautiful and well-known faces as the founder and medical director of the Alessi Institute for Facial Plastic Surgery in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Nevertheless, Dr. Alessi transcends the superficiality that could easily frame a high-brow cosmetic surgery practice by dedicating time and surgical skills to Face Forward, a nonprofit association dedicated to providing facial surgical reconstructive services to women and children who have been victims of violence through gang aggression or domestic violence.

“Nearly all surgeons are fortunate being blessed with surgical skills and a steady income,” Dr. Alessi says. “It would be criminal not to return some of this to those less fortunate. It feels good and feels right to do it.”

Dr. Alessi performed pro bono surgery for years prior to formally conceiving Face Forward, in conjunction with his wife, Deborah Alessi, of Alessi Skin Care.

“The urgency in providing relief to innocent individuals lies in the fact that the lasting physical and emotional effects of gang and domestic violence have a documented ripple effect through generations and can affect many more than just the abused,” Dr. Alessi says. “The scars of abuse are a constant reminder of the abusive event and cause physical and psychological pain, oftentimes lasting much longer than the abuse event. These reminders can cause victims to feel shamed, ostracized and unable to fully recover.

"Our mission is to pave that first step forward toward recovery and toward the future.”

Through his work with Face Forward, David Alessi, M.D., performed several surgeries on this patient, Saundra, who is a victim of domestic abuse. Dr. Alessi performed his surgeries after Saundra had already undergone more than 20 surgeries by other physicians. (Photo: David Alessi, M.D.)

One remarkable patient
Saundra, (right) is one Face Forward services recipient on whom Dr. Alessi has operated several times. This patient lost most of the right side of her face from necrotizing faciitis. She was beaten by her ex-husband, left for dead and developed a flesh-eating bacterial infection of the face, causing loss of her right facial tissues. She had approximately 20 surgeries before meeting Dr. Alessi.

“When we met Saundra she still had significant facial deformities,” Dr. Alessi says. “Knowing that she could never look completely like her former self, we worked with her to determine her main complaints. They were asymmetry pronounced by a large, bulky mass in her neck; the inability to keep her eye closed; and an inability to open her mouth enough to have dental work done. The first surgery we performed was aimed at enabling her to undergo oral surgery.”

Saundra with Dr. Alessi at the Face Forward 2nd Annual Gala. (Photo: David Alessi, M.D.)

One piece of the puzzle
Face Forward works with community leaders around the nation to identify victims of violence who are legitimately working toward recovery and who carry the physical evidence of past abuse.

“We are able to provide our services to individuals who are committed to their recovery by partnering with local community centers, which offer complementary relief: housing, counseling, job searches and legal assistance. We are one part of the recovery puzzle. However, the immediate results of our healing efforts provide individuals with the confidence to literally put their best face forward once again,” Dr. Alessi says.

According to Face Forward:

  • At least one in three women around the world have been physically abused; approximately half of all murders and disfiguring assaults in major metropolitan areas are gang-related.
  • Approximately two-thirds of reported domestic violence incidents are classified as “simple assaults,” which is a misdemeanor rather than a felony. But up to 50 percent of these “simple assaults” result in physical injuries and disfigurements that are as serious — or more serious — than 90 percent of all rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults.
  • It is estimated that a domestic violence act occurs every 15 seconds somewhere in the United States. That figure translates to more 2.5 million victims per year. This abuse affects the lives of the victims and the family and children who live within the boundaries of these abusive relationships.

For more information about Face Forward, visit: http://www.facela.net/.

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