Statistics show that at least half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16. This can take many forms; one being tattoo branding which is increasingly becoming more common by abusers as a sign of ownership or control over their victim. This can happen in domestic violence situations, and is also seen quite often with human trafficking victims.
For survivors that have been able to escape, these tattoos can be a constant reminder of their painful past. But, they don't have to be forever.
Ontario's Strategy to End Human Trafficking which expanded the Victim Quick Response Program by $1.93 million over the last four years allows victims of human trafficking to access new benefits such as tattoo removal, replacement of government documents and recovery in a trauma-informed facility.
The Victim Quick Response Program (VQRP+) supports direct victims, witnesses and immediate family members of victims of violent crimes and can be accessed through any Ontario Network of Victim Service Providers.
There are certain conditions that must be met in order to be eligible for these services, and for tattoo removal, the time frame is only one year from the last date of trafficking.
Tattoo removal, unfortunately, is often not the first priority for a victim upon escaping or exiting human trafficking. Many victims who were made to be dependent on their traffickers can struggle to find adequate shelter, employment, and for some, may require long-term mental health and addiction resources and counselling afterwards.
Rhonelle Bruder, a trafficking survivor and founder of Project i RISE, a survivor-led, anti-trafficking non-profit organization out of the Greater Toronto area decided that she wanted to help other survivors in Ontario who were still marked by trafficking brands. Project i RISE has recently launched an initiative to raise funds to remove branding tattoos for survivors of human trafficking.
CARE Project Grey-Bruce has joined on as an iRise Ambassador to raise $500 for the cost to to help one human trafficking survivor with their branding tattoo removal.
We recently were able to help a brave 24-year old woman who is a survivor of sexual violence and exploitation in our community begin the process to have a tattoo camouflaged that she was branded with which resulted in significant scarring two years ago by her abuser because of this amazing initiative.