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‘I felt my skin burn, it smelt like barbecued goat’

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Tuesday, February 9th, 2016
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 Joyce Frimpoma, 32, had battery acid thrown into her face as she opened her beauty salon and street kitchen by her partner of 14 years and father of her three young sons.

Joyce Frimpoma, 32, had battery acid thrown into her face as she opened her beauty salon and street kitchen by her partner of 14 years and father of her three young sons.

Peeling back her headscarf, Joyce Frimpoma reluctantly reveals her mutilated face.

The side of her head has melted away. Once where there was a flowing mane of beautiful black hair there are now scars stretch across her scalp, her face and down her neck.

Her shocking disfigurement would lead anyone to assume her scars were the result of a horrific accident.

But the disturbing truth is they were deliberately inflicted by her partner of 14 years, with whom she has three young children.

Her crime? She smiled at a male customer at the beauty salon and street kitchen she runs.

Speaking exclusively to MailOnline on the condition she is allowed to sit in the dark at the home she once shared with him on the outskirts of Accra, Ghana, Joyce, 32, bravely recalled the morning her life changed forever.

‘I was heading to my beauty salon, it was about 3am. I was getting ready to make porridge to sell for the early morning customers on their way to work.

‘But I noticed someone hiding behind one of the other shops in the row.

‘He covered himself in one of the cloths that I kept in my shop, and was hiding something beneath it behind his back.

‘When he came closer I realised that it was my partner, Freddy. I asked him why he was hiding underneath the cloth.

‘I asked if he was feeling sick or something, because he was walking very slowly in a strange way.

‘He said that he wasn’t sick, but that he wanted to talk to me and so I should come closer to him.’

Trusting, never imagining the father of her children, Yaw Frimpong Adaqua, whom she called known as Freddy, would want to hurt her, Joyce approached him.

What she didn’t know was that Freddy, ten years her senior and unemployed for months, was consumed by rage – having seen her smile at a customer in the shop.

The couple were going through a rocky stage in the months leading up to the attack.

Joyce had recently left Freddy, 42, because she wanted him to marry her for the sake of their children – but Freddy, who suffered from depression, refused.

Reliving the horror, Joyce went on: ‘I wanted to know what he was hiding behind his back and I reached out my hand to get it. It was a small container with something in it.

‘I put my fingers in the liquid and felt it burning, and quickly pulled my hand back.

‘At that moment, my handbag fell off my shoulder and I bent down to pick it up. And when I stood back up he threw the rest of the acid at me and tried to hit my face.’

In some ways, Joyce was lucky. She reacted quickly and turned her head away from the scalding chemical.

‘I turned my face just in time, so it only hit one side of my head. I was lucky. I avoided getting it all over my face.

‘When I felt the acid on my skin and in my face it felt as though I was being burned alive.

‘I screamed for help and started running but I was completely disorientated and ran into a wall.

‘There was even smoke coming from my body where the acid had hit, and it smelt like when you are barbecuing goat meat.’

As the acid ate its way into her skin, she collapsed, semi-conscious. It was then that a man appeared from inside a building and shook her back into consciousness.

She continued: ‘At the same time a little girl walked up and wanted to help me and touched the acid-infected skin.

‘But my skin was peeling off so I asked her to stop.’

The acid continues working its way into the skin and body, and when it gets deep enough it will begin to corrode the muscles and the bones as well.
~ Dr Opoku Ware Ampomah, plastic surgeon at Korle-Bu Hospital

 

The man called a taxi for Joyce, and travelled with her to the local hospital.

She transferred to the Korle-Bu Hospital – the main hospital in Ghana, where there is a special burns unit.

‘At the hospital they said I should have put plenty of water on the skin right away, which would have helped reduce the scarring.

‘But I didn’t think of that at the time, I was just screaming and running.’

Freddy, spent his days drinking and smoking marijuana, while Joyce worked at turning her beauty salon and street kitchen into a thriving business.

But, on a rapid downward spiral, he soon he began beating his Joyce and would disappear from the family home for hours at a time.

‘He became increasingly bitter and became extremely jealous every time he saw I smiled and talked to my male customers at my shop. But I had to do that to get them to buy my things,’ said Joyce.

Blaming her for his own failure, Freddy eventually decided to destroy her.

In the months following the attacks, Joyce underwent several skin grafts, paid for with her own money and money donated by family and friends.

After the money ran out, she returned to her family’s village where she was treated with traditional herbs.

Today, two years on, she still suffers from severe headaches and has trouble moving her head because her neck is so covered in scar tissue.

She uses her headscarf to cover the worst of her scars, and tries to only leave the house at night with her sister by her side.

During the day, she wears a wig with long hair to cover the scars on the side of her face.

 Freddy threw acid at her after he saw her smile at a male customer in the shop that she ran in Accra, Ghana

Freddy threw acid at her after he saw her smile at a male customer in the shop that she ran in Accra, Ghana

‘I think these men attack their wives and girlfriends with acid because they are jealous and are wicked.

‘They want to destroy their women’s beauty because they think that no other man should have her.’

Dr Edem K. Anyigba, a plastic surgeon in the burns unit of Korle-Bu Hospital, said the shock means many women don’t get the right treatment in the seconds after the attack – the time when it matters the most.

He told MailOnline: ‘It’s in the first few seconds where you have the chance to reduce the damage by dousing the victim in water.

‘But most people here in Ghana don’t know that. As the minutes pass, it will only get harder to save the skin.

‘That’s because the acid continues working its way into the body, and when it gets deep enough it will begin to corrode the muscles and the bones as well.’

Freddy has been charged over the attack and is in custody awaiting trial in Ghana.

Joyce is just one of dozens victims of acid attacks in Ghana, where, despite there being no official statistics, have been rocked by a number of incidents in recent years – and yet there is still no regulation on its sale.

In May Adam Mahama, chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in the Upper East region, died in an acid attack.

In April 19-year-old Vivian Adomako was attacked with acid by her boyfriend when she called off their relationship after pressure from her family.

And Anita Otema, 22, was blinded in the left eye with severe burns all around her neck, arms and thighs when she broke up with her boyfriend.

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