Resham Khan’s plan to celebrate her birthday, turned horrific after the 21-year-old and her cousin Jameel Muhktar were randomly attacked with acid during a morning drive in east London. John Tomlin allegedly threw the damaging substance into their car while they were at a stoplight.
Acid attacks have become more common in the United Kingdom with more than half of the attacks taking place in London where it is easy to buy corrosive substances like sulphuric acid, bleach and drain cleaners from many shops. The Metropolitan Police had close to 454 reports of acid attacks in 2016, up significantly from 261 in 2015.
Khan is just one of many who have been disfigured. Some victims suffer a lifetime of pain. Acid attacks have alarmingly become the method of choice of attack for some gang members or those with hateful intentions.
When the incident occurred two months ago, Khan documented her painful recovery on her twitter feed and urged followers not to retaliate. “The pain was excruciating. I was struggling to close the window,” says Khan. “I saw my clothes burn away in front of me.”
“I’m devastated. I keep wondering if my life will ever be the same.”
She required a skin graft, left eye damage, and had burns on her face and body. While recovering in hospital she wrote, “I’m devastated. I keep wondering if my life will ever be the same.”
Khan also chronicled the ups and downs she faced during her recovery on her blog. “I look down and see the drops of my harsh reality. The discoloured shades of brown, white, pink, and purple. The lumpy skin and the skin grafts. These marks are meant to be for just me to see, but I keep wondering if anyone else in the future will ever get the chance, or want it.”
“I am overcoming a huge obstacle in my life, and other opportunities will arise.”
In another post she seems more hopeful, “I am overcoming a huge obstacle in my life, and other opportunities will arise.”
In a recent live Instagram post, Khan mentioned that she has to avoid the sun for the next two years by wearing hats and slathering on strong sunblock. She wears a body suit to reduce scarring, requires steroids on her face, and will continue receive medical care for her left eye. Nevertheless, she remains optimistic with many of her followers who encourage her to maintain her positive attitude. “I decided to handle this in a way that would better my life,” says Khan.
The Manchester resident is now lobbying the British government to discuss acid attacks in parliament with the hope that only those with a license would be able to purchase these products. Close to 35 members of parliament are backing her efforts.
The attacks have caused other Londoners to fear that they could be the next victim. Rupal Unadkat grew up in east London and is cautious when walking down the streets even during the day. “I am scared and I feel vulnerable,” says Unadkat. “I think there needs to be harsher sentences, which would deter some of these people from committing these terrible, lifechanging crimes.”
She hopes that the number of attacks are reduced quickly. “Being attacked with acid can totally ruin your life,” says Unadkat.
Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Kearton of the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for Corrosive Attacks says, “The use of corrosive substances to commit acts of violence is an extreme violent crime that aims to cause lasting physical and emotional damage to victims.”
Khan is trying to look forward now and focus on healing. “I can’t change what has happened to me and I can’t fix anything,” says Khan. “I refuse to dwell, and all I can do is hope for justice.”
Over half a million people have signed a petition that Khan is backing to stop the purchase of acid without a license.
“Regardless of what comes your way, we pick up the pieces and keep it moving until the sunny day we hope for arrives.”
“The only thing I can do is help to make a difference,” says Khan. “The world is still mine for the taking. Same as for any woman. Regardless of what comes your way, we pick up the pieces and keep it moving until the sunny day we hope for arrives.”
Her attacker, Tomlin has been charged with grievous bodily harm with intent.
Follow more of her journey at her blog http://resham.online/