October is fast approaching and as advocates across the nation prepare for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, informing and empowering victims, survivors and supporters of domestic violence is an on-going campaign for local charity Face Forward.

L.A.-based Face Forward is not the typical domestic violence non-profit organization. This charity is in the business of reconstructing lives by offering pro bono physical and emotional reconstruction for women and children who have been victimized by domestic or gang-related violence. 

Since 2007, Face Forward has provided free reconstructive surgeries for thousands of survivors disfigured by domestic abuse. The organization also teams with national and local communities that offer free housing, counseling, legal assistance, job placement and various other resources. However, the foundation’s main mission is to assist victims in recovering physically and emotionally.

Founders Deborah Alessi and her plastic surgeon husband David feel that changing the outward appearance of domestic assault survivors gives them the confidence to address the scars on the inside and move beyond their past to obtain fulfilling futures.

Deborah, an alumnus of Glasgow University, was a victim of domestic violence during her college years, and she has never forgotten the pain. "There are so many women out there who don't have a place to go, who don't have my strength. And so, me and my husband said we can't change the emotional part, but we can change the physical part, and we decided to start Face Forward,” she said.

Statistics show that domestic violence occurs every 15 seconds in the United States. On college campuses, many domestic violence cases such as stalking, verbal abuse or electronic abuse are nonphysical; however, Deborah said any behavior that is used to intimidate or control is a serious matter and should be addressed as soon as possible.

Deborah vividly recalls the pain and the fear she felt when her college sweetheart, whom she loved and thought loved her, tried to hit her and then threw her down a flight of stairs. "In that split second," she said, "it changed."

She said of other victims, "I want to help them, and I want them to go forward."

Face Forward recommends ending a relationship when there are signs of abuse and then telling someone you can trust right away. The organization also stresses the importance of informing someone and seeking protection after leaving the relationship, no matter how afraid you may be. Telling someone will likely prevent a catastrophic outcome.

“The work that we do turns our victims of abuse into victors in life, and we have been fortunate to impact many lives with profoundly life changing results,” said Deborah.

If you or anyone you know is suffering from this epidemic, seek out help immediately before it is too late.