“I was in an extremely high-violent marriage for five years.” This survivor had the name of her abusive ex-husband tattooed on her neck — and she’s finally getting it removed thanks to a nonprofit at no cost.
Taking back the past
Stephanie Andresen-Stevens helps abuse survivors heal by removing reminders of their painful past. She removes tattoos for free through her nonprofit Restorative Ink. Andresen-Stevens who has owned the award-winning Onalaska massage therapy, skin care and spa business for over a decade, launched Restorative Ink, a discounted or free tattoo removal service for human trafficking or domestic violence victims or former gang members with affiliation markings.
This anonymous client is getting a tattoo of her abusive ex-husband’s name removed. She asked Brut to hide her identity so he can’t find her. Stevens takes the safety of survivors seriously by protecting their identities. Stevens is based in Wisconsin, but she wants to expand Restorative Ink’s services throughout the U.S. — where more than 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience Physical violence, sexual violence, or stalking by an intimate partner according to CDC.
Andresen-Stevens was introduced to the concept six years ago during a trip to Denver for a laser company event. There, she met organizers and members of the Jails to Jobs program, lending her hand at removing the tattoos that could harm their chances at employment. Andresen-Stevens, who invested $250,000 in the PicoWay laser tattoo removal machine and spent an additional $10,000 on training and certifications, reached out to organizations — including New Horizons, the La Crosse Task Force to End Modern Slavery, First Free Church and local social workers and parole officers — for referrals of those who may need Restorative Ink’s services. She has so far provided tattoo removal solutions to over a dozen people between the ages of 25 to 55, the bulk of them being women. Andresen-Stevens says she has gotten letters from the Wisconsin Department of Justice, with survivor inmates bearing gang affiliation tattoos on their faces, hands or arms hoping to take advantage of the empowering Restorative Ink services upon release.