By Kim Wong-Shing
For tattoo lovers, getting a new tattoo is an empowering decision. But for many abuse survivors, tattoos tell a much different, more painful story — their tattoos often weren’t a choice, but were forced upon them as a display of control. Fortunately, one Wisconsin woman is dedicated to removing those tattoos, for free.
Stephanie Andresen-Stephens owns Brilliant Bodywork in Onalaska, Wisconsin. She started a nonprofit called Restorative Ink to remove the tattoos of human trafficking survivors, former gang members, domestic abuse victims, and anyone else who was tattooed against their will.
Stephanie’s work is about more than just removing ink. The process also helps survivors get rid of the physical reminders of painful memories. Moreover, it helps them get their sense of power back.
One client, Tara, used Stephanie’s services to remove a tattoo that her abusive ex-boyfriend wanted on her.
“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 I could possibly imagine,” Tara said.
“He kind of took power away from me, in the time that we were together in the things that he did to me. He broke me down… and Stephanie doing this for me is going to build me back up again.”
Thank you, Stephanie – your work is deeply appreciated!