MGH Hotline 12.04.09 When she looked in the mirror, the long jagged scars running across her cheek reflected back at her, a disturbing reminder of the physical and emotional abuse she suffered at the hands of the father of her children.

Facing a better future

The MGH and Rose Fund assist survivors of domestic abuse

04/Dec/2009

ROSE BUDS: Standing, from left, McGillivray, Kaban, Allen, Wiener-Kronish and Spring. Seated, from left, Austen, Lancaster, Connery and Speakman

When she looked in the mirror, the long jagged scars running across her cheek reflected back at her, a disturbing reminder of the physical and emotional abuse she suffered at the hands of the father of her children. Although she was in a safe place and ready to move on with her life -- she had safely left her boyfriend a year ago and was looking for a job -- she felt ashamed of the visible evidence of the abuse she had endured.

For many women who have suffered abuse from an intimate partner, the physical scars and other medical or dental issues that result serve as dreadful reminders of their painful past. Often, these scars and other concerns can physically and emotionally impede a woman's efforts to rebuild her life.

To empower women who have broken the cycle of domestic violence in their lives, the Regaining One's Self Esteem (ROSE) Fund of Boston helps survivors receive corrective medical and dental procedures and surgeries, cash awards and scholarships. Founded in 1992, ROSE has had an impact on the lives of more than 350 women, linking them to physicians and hospitals across the city for reconstructive care for domestic abuse injuries.

The MGH has informally worked with ROSE for several years. In September, the hospital signed a two-year agreement with the organization to donate services to women referred through ROSE who are in a safe place, meaning free of the relationship for at least one year, and who would not otherwise have the financial means for corrective procedures. Under the newly structured plan, MGH physicians and nurses from the departments of Plastic Surgery; Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Medicine; and Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery will provide reconstructive procedures ranging from scar removal to chipped tooth corrections to aesthetic surgeries.

The agreement between the MGH and ROSE began with a simple phone call a year ago from Missy Allen, a manager at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and a member of the ROSE board of directors, to Elizabeth Speakman, LICSW, director of HAVEN, an MGH domestic violence program.

"Missy let us know that the waiting list for women from the ROSE Fund hoping to receive surgeries at Mass Eye and Ear was extremely long," says Speakman. "She proposed the idea of formalizing the relationship that the MGH has had with ROSE to help accommodate these women."

With the seed for an official agreement planted, Speakman sought assistance from Jim Heffernan, MGPO chief financial officer. As a longtime member of the MGH Domestic Violence Working Group and Men Against Abuse group, Heffernan understood the long-term impact that domestic violence injuries and scars can have on women working toward regaining their self-sufficiency and self-esteem. Heffernan led efforts to establish the MGH agreement with ROSE and ran the proposal by Jay William Austen Jr., MD; Leonard Kaban, MD, DMD; and Jeanine Wiener-Kronish, MD, the chiefs of Plastic Surgery; Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery; and Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Medicine, respectively. The physicians and MGH leadership quickly and wholeheartedly endorsed the creation of a formal agreement with ROSE.

Says Heffernan: "This partnership would not have come to fruition without the support of Ann Prestipino, Nancy Connery, Liz Lancaster, Steve Spring, John McGillivray and all of the physicians who supported it. This was a wonderful example of the collaborative and supportive nature of the hospital making a tremendous difference in the lives of women in our communities."

The members of ROSE also are grateful. "This arrangement with the MGH is very exciting for all us of at ROSE," says Dan Walsh, ROSE chairman and executive director. "We were thrilled with how quick and seamless the process was. Liz Speakman, Jim Heffernan, Ann Prestipino and all of the heads of the services important to the care of these patients were completely devoted to making this happen. We are absolutely delighted to embark on this journey with the MGH."

Since the agreement was signed, two referrals already have been made to the MGH, and the women soon will receive consultations with physicians before undergoing corrective procedures. For more information about the ROSE Fund, access www.rosefund.org. For more information about domestic violence, call HAVEN at 617-724-0054 or the Massachusetts domestic abuse hotline at 877-785-2020.