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Reconstructing Battered Lives

Cathy Castro had been through it all. Her nose had been bashed in by her husband so many times it needed to be rebuilt. He slashed her face with a knife, leaving a four-inch scar. He tore her earrings from her ears. Castro finally left and started her life over. But how could she fully heal emotionally when she still had the physical evidence?

The American Association of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence are helping, with a program called Face to Face. Through Face to Face, victims of domestic violence have access to plastic surgeons nationwide who have volunteered their services at no charge. Victims are treated just like any other patient when they come in to the doctor’s offices, with complete confidentiality.

Dr. Andrew Berman, a Jewish plastic surgeon affiliated with the program, has treated 30-40 women through Face to Face as part of his personal tzedakah work. To his knowledge. Dr. Berman is the only plastic surgeon performing this service in Southern California, and has had patients come from all over the state. (Castro was one of his patients.) “Everyone is nervous when they come in for plastic surgery,” explained Dr. Bennan. “These women have another whole level of fear added on. They aren’t sure that anybody cares about them.” Dr. Berman puts in about 20 hours a month in various volunteer medical services. Tenet Hospital allowed him the use of the operating room for free, and the anesthesiologists, all of whom he says are Jewish, also provide their services for free.

“I have always been lucky, and these projects are an opportunity for me to give something back,” comments Berman. “A lot of people just need a little hand along the way. People have always helped me, and I want to be there for other people.”