By Heather ArmstrongApr 11, 2019
ONALASKA, Wis. (WXOW) – An Onalaska business owner heard about a need and is stepping up to provide that help free of charge.
Stephanie Andreson Stephens says perfecting skin is all in a day’s work as the owner of Brilliant Body Works.
However, lately Stephanie has been moved to help remove tattoos from people who say those marks were put there against their will or when they were feeling vulnerable.
“It’s so important to remove it because when someone like myself chooses to go get a tattoo we spend time and dedication going and designing it and telling our story. We’re doing it of free will,” said Stephens.
Human traffickers tag their workers, gangs mark their members and abusers mark their victims.
“It’s made to show ownership or alliance with a certain group and often times people feel forced into it or it is very much forced upon them when they are in a delicate state or when they’re just feeling very vulnerable in life,” said Stephens.
Stephanie started Restorative Ink, a non profit removing the scars that are painful reminders of a previous life.
Today, she is helping a woman named Tara erase the mark put on her body by an abusive ex-boyfriend.
Stephanie says despite having a high tech laser to do the job right you never know what you’re up against in these situations.
“It’s really dependent on if it was professionally done? Was it done with traditional tattoo ink or was there another medium brought in…like graphite pencil can be used, candle soot. You name it. How deep is it in the body and really until we do a treatment or two we don’t know fully what we’re getting into,” said Stephens.
A local woman said it took her former abusive boyfriend three hours to get her tattoo on but to take it off it could take up to 12 sessions. She describes the pain as feeling like hot grease splattering all over the skin but says it’s nothing compared to the abuse she experienced at the hands of her abuser.
“The fear takes over you. You’re afraid to talk to people, to tell them what’s going on and you’re afraid you’re never going to get out of that situation,” said Tara.
Stephanie says since the start of the year she’s removed two dozen tattoos and now people in prison are reaching out for help.
“One letter I got, this gentleman is describing how he has three young children at home and how he wants to be a better role model for them and how his ex gang symbols are going to keep him from getting a reputable job and position. Unfortunately, he’s right. I think people do look at tattoos and see it as kind of a negative thing in our society,” said Stephens.
For Tara, the removal process has just begun but already with each painful stroke of the laser a glimmer of hope.
“It will be amazing to not have that constant reminder of that time in my life where I went through some of the worst things that I could possibly imagine.” said Tara.
Thanks to Stephanie, Tara can now begin the process of shifting her mindset from victim to survivor.
“I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to be able to take my power back. He kind of took power away from me in the time that we were together in the things that he did to me. In the way that he belittled me the
way he did. He broke me down. Stephanie doing this for me is going to build me back up again,” said Tara.
For help with tattoo removal, contact Stephanie at 608-783-8380.