Program helps abused women cover up unwanted tattoos

Program helps abused women cover up unwanted tattoos

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Program helps abused women cover up unwanted tattoos

Tonetta Jackson held open her shirt as she approached a mirror to admire her new tattoo. A large flower, nestled between two smaller ones, bloomed from her collarbone.

Moments earlier, she shared high fives with the women who had clasped her hands — Christina Conrad and Jennifer Kempton — as Charles Waldo spent hours applying the black, green, orange, pink and yellow ink at the Among the Living studio in Lancaster.

“It’s really beautiful,” she said.

“You totally reclaimed it,” Conrad said.

“Chuck just got rid of a demon,” added Kempton.

Waldo’s artwork hid the gang symbol that had marked Jackson as a woman of the streets for nearly 14 years. For the 38-year-old Jackson, the new tattoo was about more than masking a mark on her body. It was about eliminating a constant reminder of old wounds.

“It’s just good to get some kind of relief that I’ll be able to get a new start in life, to be able to look at myself a little bit differently than I did in the past,” said Jackson, who lives on the East Side. “It was a very dark time in my past, so it’s been really amazing to have this experience.”

Last Sunday, Jackson became the 10th woman to receive a free tattoo through Survivors Ink, a program that raises money to cover up the tattoos, scars or burns that brand sex-trafficking victims as the property of pimps, drug dealers or gangs, said Kempton, the group’s founder and coordinator. They might be names, bar codes, dollar signs or gang symbols. Kempton had one on her pelvis that read “Property of Salem,” a former boyfriend.

She founded the group this year after having her own tattoos covered as she recovered from drug addiction and a life of prostitution and abuse.“Having to look in the mirror every day and every time I got into the shower and saw these tattoos, it’s horrible for your self-worth,” said Kempton, 32, of the East Side. “You start […]