Acid attack victim is helping to change public perceptions

PUBLISHED: 09:33 01 April 2009 | UPDATED: 23:17 15 June 2010

Beverley Hammett. Ref: P9927-14-09TI

Beverley Hammett. Ref: P9927-14-09TI

A SEATON woman who had acid thrown in her face 12 years ago in a case of mistaken identity says she has come to terms with her disfigurement.

Beverley  before and after the attack

A SEATON woman who had acid thrown in her face 12 years ago in a case of mistaken identity says she has come to terms with her disfigurement.Beverley Hammett, 32, from Somersby Close, is promoting a charity that promotes acceptance of people with disfigurements.She was scarred for life at the age of 19.An unknown hitman carried out the attack on July 10, 1996, intended for the woman who Beverly was babysitting for.The intended victim's estranged husband was jailed for 12 years for setting up the attack and served eight. The attacker has never been caught.But, as Beverley continues to undergo skin grafts, she feels she is the one serving the longer sentence.She said: "The justice system is like that. People are given parole for good behaviour, but it doesn't change what they did. "I don't like thinking about it - it's terrible that someone could want to hurt somebody like that. But bad things happen to people all the time. Unfortunately, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but life's like that."After numerous operations, Beverly warns people against believing that surgeons can 'fix anything' but instead says we should accept how we look.She said: "I just remind myself that if anyone is going to have a problem with my appearance then it's their problem, not mine."She is currently a media volunteer for Changing Faces, which supports and represents people who have disfigurements from any cause. She said: "We are fighting a bit of a battle against the way the media portrays beauty. You have to be flawless, slim and attractive. "Deep down we know it doesn't really matter, but it's pushed on people all the time."On that eventful night, Beverley remembers hearing somebody open the front gate. She opened the door and felt it being pushed open as liquid was thrown in her face.She said: "I heard broken glass and some man cursing under his breath. Then my images merge, with people shouting. "Unknown to me, the eldest of the three children ran after the attacker. I assumed it was some kind of chemical and just felt fizzing rather than pain straight away."She had assumed it was a robbery, but the offender did not take anything from the house. She knew she had to wash her face and keep her eyes closed. It is believed she would have been blinded had she not been wearing glasses. Her father, retained firefighter Robin Hammett, was first on the scene. The station watch commander said he treated it as any other call out. But when back up arrived, the reality of the situation left him shaken.Beverley stayed in hospital for two months and while she was aware that she would never look the same again, her main concern was to get better.She said: "I was imagining I would look like one of those burns victims I'd seen in the news. But I didn't realise how long it would take to get to that point. "I looked swollen and my skin was a different colour - red and sore looking."People sometimes stare now, but they don't usually ask what happened to me until they get to know me. "For some people it can take years. I'm less likely to get looked at around Seaton, as people are used to seeing me and know what happened."Beverley has a degree in childhood studies from Swansea University and now works at the Pink Hippo nursery, in Harbour Road, and at Colyton Caterpillars. Beverly, also a member of Seaton drama and pantomime groups, said: "The children sometimes ask what happened and I try to be honest without alarming them. "They usually ask one question then say, 'I'd like to do some painting now'."Sometimes children stare, but it doesn't bother me - unless they're with their parents, and the parents go into panic mode."Beverley hopes one day more disfigured people will feature on TV so that people will become familiar with the condition. In the meantime, she is busy getting on with her life. She said: "If bad things happen to you it doesn't mean life is going to change for the worse." n For more information on Changing Faces, visit www.changingfaces.org.uk or call 0845 4500 275.

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