Canada
Montreal acid-attack victim still bears physical, mental scars

Tanya St-Arnauld

Credits: TVA NOUVELLES

CHRISTINE BOUTHILLIER | QMI AGENCY

MONTREAL -- Whenever Tanya St-Arnauld closes her eyes, she relives the evening five months ago when her ex-boyfriend allegedly doused her with acid in a fit of jealousy.

St-Arnauld told QMI Agency's sister French news channel, LCN, that the Aug. 25 attack is never far from her mind.

"Every detail, every sound, even the acid smell ... that's what I see all day," the 29-year-old hairdresser said.

Nikolas Stefanatos is charged with assault following the attack in Longueuil, just outside Montreal.

A boiler that stored acidic concrete cleaner was poured on top of St-Arnauld on the top steps of her apartment.

She suffered burns over 20% of her body and has been undergoing excruciating skin grafts, including on her scalp.

Wearing heavy makeup and a brown wig, St-Arnauld told QMI that she remembers running into her neighbours' apartment, filling their apartment with frantic screams.

"They're the ones who took care of me, they're the ones who put me in the bath."

All the while, as the acid burned though layers of skin, St-Arnauld expected to die and started reflecting on her life.

"I thought about the little things, that I hadn't seen my mother that day, my regrets, things I'd missed," she said.

"The things you take for granted ... it's taken away in a split second."

Several painful surgeries lie ahead.

A scarred and puffy mess of a scalp, peppered with bald spots, lies under her wig.

"The hair is growing back, but in places where there are grafts, it's not growing back," she said.

Then there's the pain of others who were touched by her ordeal.

Her mother often helps her apply cream to her burns, crying all the way through.

The neighbours who doused her with water in those horrific minutes after the attack moved away months ago. They were traumatized by acid stains in their bathroom that wouldn't wash away.

"I destroyed their quiet life," St-Arnauld lamented. "The neighbor told my mother that she couldn't look at the bathroom anymore (because) she kept seeing me in the shower, she always hears my screams."

Her scars are permanent and her hairdressing career is in limbo but St-Arnauld doesn't seem bitter and says she's fortunate to be alive.

"(I) look for the positive, I can do this, but it is a full-time job."

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