Oral Health Group
Feature

A Steel-Toed Boot to the Face

July 1, 2007
by Catherine Wilson, Editor


Give Back a Smile… I don’t know. It sounds too light, too cheerful. Just doesn’t have the same impact as a steel-toed boot to the face. Domestic violence. Abuse. Attack. Assault. Battering.

At the recent American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD) scientific session in Atlanta, I attended the Profitability of Philanthropy seminar. Keynote speaker: Denise Brown. Former sister-in-law of O. J. Simpson. Ms. Brown has spent the past nearly 13 years of her life since her sister’s murder lobbying members of congress and senators, fundraising, public speaking and becoming a human encyclopedia of programs and places women can turn to for shelter and assistance.

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One such program is the AACD’s Give Back A Smile (GBAS). Give Back A Smile is dedicated to providing cosmetic dental care at no cost to survivors of domestic violence. Give Back A Smile raises awareness of domestic violence and gives survivors of domestic violence hope for a better tomorrow. It also provides volunteer members of the AACD the opportunity to give back to the community.

GBAS conducts the initial review of the application, however the dentist has the final say as to the eligibility of the applicant.

If eligible, the AACD connects the survivor with a local GBAS volunteer who provides treatment at no charge to the recipient.

After completing the program, survivors must make an appointment with a counselor, domestic violence advocate, social worker or therapist to complete the advocate section of the GBAS application.

Recently, Give Back A Smile, which is the primary program of the non-profit foundation of the AACD recently completed its 500th case and to date has provided more than US$4 million dollars worth of donated services to survivors of domestic violence. GBAS and the AACD have both caught the attention of local and national news organizations as well as internationally known programs such as Dr. Phil.

Unfortunately, there continues to be a never-ending supply of GBAS candidates.

Estimates range from 960,000 incidents of violence against a current or former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend per year to three million women who are physically abused by their husband or boyfriend per year. Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime.

In 2001, intimate partner violence made up 20 percent of violent crime against women. The same year, intimate partners committed three percent of all violent crime against men.

Male violence against women does much more damage than female violence against men; women are much more likely to be injured than men.

The health-related costs of rape, physical assault, stalking and homicide committed by intimate partners exceed $5.8 billion each year. Of that amount, nearly $4.1 billion are for direct medical and mental health care services, and nearly $1.8 billion are for the indirect costs of lost productivity or wages.1

Only about half of all domestic violence incidents are reported to police.

The most common reasons for not reporting domestic violence to police are that victims view the incident as a personal or private matter, they fear retaliation from their abuser, and they do not believe that police will do anything about the incident.

Several studies document that women experience higher levels of fear than men do in domestic violence situations. This is perhaps because women in domestic violence situations are much more likely to be injured — and injured severely — than men are.2

Domestic violence survivors who have suffered dental injuries from abuse from a former intimate partner or spouse in this country may have the opportunity to receive similar care. Work is being done to bring a Canadian version, if you will, to fruition.

For information, contact me and I’ll put you in touch with those working diligently to bring this humanitarian program to Canada — T. 416-510-6785, cwilson@oralhealthjournal.com — completely confidential.

Restore a Smile, Restore a Life.

1. Family Violence Prevention Fund.

2. Feminist Majority Foundation.


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