CARE Project Grey-Bruce has recently assisted 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.
While tattoos may have their spotlight in fashion these days, for some, they are inked without their consent and are not a form of their own personal expression. That is the case for some victims and survivors of human trafficking, whose tattoos are a branding meant to be a form of ownership and a way for traffickers to control their victims.
Branding tattoos can range from the name or initials of their trafficker, a symbol, or a bar code and are often seen on visible parts of the body, but can be found in other areas.
Police and anti-trafficking advocates are seeing branding on victims more often these days.
Glenn Tremblay of the Owen Sound Police Service said last year in a featured Grey County Life video that discussed the subject of human trafficking, "Some of the things to watch for are in their person ... Tattoos is a big one. A lot of our traffickers like to brand, sorta speak their victims, with certain tattoos, whether it is their initials, whether it is a specific logo that means that you belong to them, that is some of the things to look for. "
For survivors that have been able to escape, these tattoos can be a constant reminder of their painful past. It can also be a financial burden to have removed, when in a process of rebuilding one's life after such a traumatic experience.
Project i RISE, an organization run by Rhonelle Bruder who is also a survivor out of the Greater Toronto area has recently partnered with Notice Boutique to offer tattoo removal services free-of-charge for survivors.
Rhonelle and her organization are dedicated to educating and empowering survivors of human trafficking and have graciously offered to provide paramedical tattooing services by Notice Boutique in January 2021 to a brave 24-year-old woman and survivor in our community.
"It’s a constant reminder of the trauma I went through, let alone other parts of the abuse. It will be a huge sense of relief to have this done ... the fact that I won’t have a constant reminder that brings back depression and anxiety on a daily basis. I am extremely grateful to be able to have this experience." - Name Protected
Each branding removal can cost up to $500 and helps survivors heal and rebuild their confidence. If you would like to help with this cost, please consider donating to Project iRise's Go Fund me page at http://gf.me/u/y5jufp
Tattoo removal has also been included in Ontario's Strategy to End Human Trafficking. As part of this plan the government has "expanded the Victim Quick Response Program by $1.93 million over four years to allow victims of human trafficking to access new benefits such as tattoo removal, replacement of government documents and recovery in a trauma-informed facility.”
These services in our area can be accessed through Victim Services Bruce Grey Perth. You can find out more information at http://www.vsbgp.com/services or call their 24-hour contact line at 1-866-376-9852.
If you are a victim or survivor in this area and need to talk, please do not hesitate to reach out. We are here to support you!