Abused Woman Wore a Mask for 12 Years Before a Nonprofit Helped Her

June 6, 2019 Updated: August 8, 2019

Saundra Crockett, for more than a decade, wore a mask in public to hide her face: it was her husband’s deepest and darkest secret.

Crockett, who is from Beverly Hills, California, said, “I wore a mask for 12 years.”

At the time, her husband beat her so severely that she got an infection that ate away at her face, she said.

“The first hospital said, ‘You know, you’ve got three days to live and you probably won’t make it,’ ” she told CBS LA

However, she survived but wanted to hide her disfigurement.

“They could hear my voice so they knew who I was but they didn’t know who I was because of my face,” Crockett said. “It was ah … pretty awful.”

Crockett later met a woman named Deborah Alessi, who started a nonprofit called Face Forward, which in seven years has provided reconstructive facial surgery to hundreds of people around the world who have been physically abused. “They have to look in the mirror and be reminded this man or this woman or this mother did this to me,” she said.

Crockett was one of those people who were helped by the group.

“This is a thousand times better than what I looked like when this first happened to me. I don’t think I could even describe how awful it was,” Crockett said.

The nonprofit says that patients have to sign a form saying they’ll become advocates against domestic violence.

What Happened?

According to the group, she was “in a relationship with an addict,” and one time, she found him with another woman. As a result, she said, he became enraged before punching her. After that, she was left alone, unconscious, and the developed necrotizing fasciitis from her injuries.

The rare, flesh-eating bacteria caused her face to swell. Crockett then was forced to undergo 28 surgeries before it was removed from her face.

“However, that cost her all of the skin, muscle and feeling on the right side of her face along with part of Saundra’s neck. It took years before Saundra was comfortable enough with her body to live without a constant mask on her face. Saundra found Face Forward to aid with her reconstruction process and today, is confident in herself and her appearance,” Face Forward wrote. “After going back to school and graduating, she started working and found an amazing job. She is also an advocate in raising awareness for Face Forward as a member of the Patient Advocacy Board and in the fight against domestic violence.”