- (Photo: Reuters/Sara C. Nelson)
Acid attack victim Patricia LeFranc has broken her silence and spoken about her traumatic experience.
"I'm used as an example of what can happen to a woman who wants to put an end to a love affair," she said in a new interview.
LeFranc met Richard Remes while living in Brussels in 2008, and they began a relationship. It ended after she learned that Remes was actually married with five children.
"I was shocked and said we should just be friends- we had not slept together, and I wasn't about to break up a family," she told Closer magazine.
Remes was persistent, and they continued meeting for several weeks following the revelation. On holiday in Egypt in 2009, LeFranc got a taste of Remes' dark side as he talked about watching violent movies involving the torture of women. She decided to end their relationship once and for all when they returned to Brussels.
He began acting erratically, wearing a T-shirt with LeFranc's face on it, the words "I love you" underneath. She told the police, who advised her to move, but four days later Remes appeared on her doorstep, donning a disguise. When LeFranc opened the door, he splashed a container of acid on her face and upper body.
Neighbors heard her screams and rushed her to the hospital; she was kept in a medically-induced coma for three months as her body began to heal. Meanwhile, Remes was arrested for the crime. LeFranc was well enough to attend his trial and testified that she was "determined to look him in the eye and show the jury what he has done to me."
"I hope to convince the court that he did indeed want to murder me," she told the court. Remes received a 30-year sentence for attempted murder, but LeFranc's life has been forever changed. In addition to her physical appearance, she has lost sight in one eye and the hearing in one ear.
At the time of the trial, LeFranc told the Daily Mail, "I hope Remes is convicted of attempted murder, and not just for assault and battery with torture. He did not just want to hurt me, he wanted me out of the way."
Her story has captivated those who know her, and LeFranc now says that she is "an example of what can happen to a woman who wants to put an end to a love affair," she told the Closer.
LeFranc has the love and support of her three children, who kept a bedside vigil when she was in the hospital and have remained at her side throughout the recovery process. She has gone through 86 operations and is scheduled to continue receiving surgical treatments and skin grafts in order to be healthy again.
"He turned me into a monster. Some days, I just cry," LeFranc said. But it's the love of her children and the hope of seeing them happy that keeps her going.
LeFranc's story comes after the suicide of Fakhra Younus, 33, who was also the victim of an acid attack. Even though Younus had survived the attack, the psychological burden was too much for her to bear. Her own son did not recognize her when she was in the hospital; her face had been badly disfigured.
Younus was forced to leave Pakistan and seek residency in France, where she was able to receive medical treatment. Unfortunately, her attacker was released, but the international community has begun to cry out for justice.
"I think this whole country should be extremely embarrassed that a foreign country took responsibility for a Pakistani citizen for 13 years because we could give her nothing, not justice, not security," Younus' mother told the Daily Mail.
According to The Aurat Foundation, over 8,500 acid attacks, forced marriages and other forms of violence were reported in Pakistan in 2011 alone, though the Foundation suspects that the number could be much larger due to unreported violence.