Victims of Sex Trafficking Are Often Branded With Tattoos
By: Charmaine Santos
Most pimps in America brand their victims with tattoos as a permanent reminder that they are property and that they will forever be tied together. However, these tattoos are permanent scars often reminding them of the physical and emotional abuse they have to endure. Police can now recognize certain tattoos that differentiate victims of the slave trade. Common ones that police regularly see are the pimp's initials or name with a crown above, dollar signs, and bags of money. Many women will have a name tattooed in various places all over the body – down the arm, on the neck, and even above the groin. Some are even branded with a unique bar code.
This sad but frequent practice caused a survivor of sex trafficking, Jennifer Kempton, to start Survivor's Ink. This organization holds fundraisers that help sex-trafficking survivors remove or cover up their tattoos. Kempton covered up four tattoos that she was forced to have. She says, 'It very much so is a psychological form of bondage.” Kempton was raped at the age of 12 by her brother’s friend in Columbus, Ohio. She was then pimped and abused by 'Salem', a man who she believed would protect her. For the next five years she endured multiple attacks and rapes. She also got branded several times, being forced to get 'Property of Salem' above her groin, 'King Munch' (the name of the gang) on her neck, as well as other men who left their names on her back and arms.
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Kempton managed to escape after two failed attempts of trying to hang herself. When the rope broke, she took it as a sign to leave. Her body is now covered with flowers, drawings, and scriptures. 'It was so liberating to take his name off of my body and have what I want there,' she said. 'The love I had been seeking my whole life, I got it with that tattoo.'
Charmaine Santos is a junior at the University of San Francisco pursuing a Bachelors of Science in Biology as well as minors in Chemistry and Health Studies. She volunteers alongside UCSF medical students at a student-run homeless clinic in San Francisco and is also an active volunteer with Operation Access. Charmaine is also a Social Media Assistant at Cancer InCytes Magazine.
De Graaf, Mia. (2015, Sept. 7). “The return of slave-branding: Modern-day sex traffickers are bringing back vile practice as girls tell how they are forced to get a tattoo of their pimp's name or insignia to mark them out as his 'property'.” Retrieved September 13, 2015 from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3224738/Modern-day-sex-traffickers-bringing-branding-used-slaves-having-names-insignia-tattooed-victims-mark-property.html
Photo Credit: http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/02/us/human-trafficking-branding-survivors-ink/