My husband and I have a heart for Human Trafficking victims. When we were in Central America last month, we had the opportunity to meet some women who had been rescued out of Sex Trafficking. They are now involved in a Christian ministry which helps them learn a trade, (to become self-sufficient) and does a weekly bible study with them.
What lovely women! If we hadn’t been told the story of their lives, we would have never known they had experienced such horror. I noticed one woman had a man’s name tattooed on her neck. It happened to be the name of my husband. I almost remarked on it, thinking she might be married to a man by the same name. Fortunately, I had the good sense to hold my tongue. I realized that the name tattooed on her neck might very well hold terrible memories for her, so I said nothing.
A week after we returned home, I stumbled upon an article about some women being tattooed by rapists, and other women by their abusers – something I had never heard of before. Here is the link to the article.
In the article, Latishia Sanchez, 20, from Albuquerque, New Mexico, talks about when she was just 14 years old she was raped by five men, including her then boyfriend.
During the assault they branded his name “Aaron” in large script lettering across her neck using a pencil, needle and black ink. She says, “I didn’t think that I’d get raped, let alone by people I didn’t know, let alone my boyfriend allowing it.”
She admitted that she is still struggling to come to terms with the ordeal six years later and just looking at the inking brings back painful memories. “It’s hard,” she explained. “Right now our mirrors are covered up because I can’t look at myself.”
Similarly, a 22-year-old from the same neighborhood who wished to retain her anonymity said she was pinned down and repeatedly tattooed with a former partner’s name when she tried to break off the relationship.
“I was with a guy for five years. He was much older. He was really abusive toward me,” she said. “After a while when I tried to finally end it, he kidnapped me, held me hostage and tattooed his name all over my body against my will.”
Elena Galicia found herself in a series of abusive relationships. To placate one ex-boyfriend she had his name “Ricky” inked on her hip. “He wanted me to show him that I was his, he was mine. And I wanted to please him. I wanted him to be happy,” she recalled.
In a bid to put their past behind them all three women are in the process of getting their tattoos erased by Albuquerque-based tattoo removal specialist, Dawn Maestas.
She has worked with dozens of domestic violence victims over the years. Explaining why inking is a common weapon, she said: “This is control. This says, ‘You belong to me.’
“I’ve had victims who have been drugged and tattooed, who have been physically held down and forced tattooed, and I get angry. I get angry because I know what these tattoos mean.”
Ms. Maestas, 42, was in an abusive relationship for 28 years. Like Ms. Galicia she voluntarily marked her ex-partner’s name on the back of her hand. She said that it made him feel “that he owned me,” she says. It was one of the first tattoos she removed.
Recounting how she felt when the mark finally disappeared she says, “It was this very strange thing that I never thought about – that when this tattoo was gone, how lighthearted I seemed to be.”
She now removes tattoos from other victims free of charge.
Ms. Sanchez has only had one session so far, but already she says it has made a big difference in the way she feels.
“I got so happy I started crying and I was looking at it and I was touching it like really? It’s like a magic eraser or something,” she said.
“Once it’s not visible anymore, that’s going to make me feel like a whole new person.”
However, Ms. Maestas can only remove the physical memories of abuse. The mental scars take much longer to heal. “The tattoos are the one thing I get to take away,” she added.
I, Caroline, can’t imagine the pain a person would experience having to look, day after day, at the name of their abuser or rapist tattooed on their body. God bless people like Ms. Maestas who remove these abhorrent symbols of slavery from victims!
So, what does God think of this? Does He believe people should be owned, raped, enslaved, and branded as if they were animals? Just the opposite. God sent his only son to earth to die a horrible death so that we could have life. Here is what the bible says:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
John 10:10 (Jesus speaking):
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
I pray that each of you will feel Jesus’ love today.