“I Was Gang-raped By My Boyfriend And His Friends” – 14-Year-Old Girl
A young victim of domestic violence has told how she was savagely attacked and tattooed with the name of her abuser as part of a worrying new trend.
Latishia Sanchez, 20, from Albuquerque, New Mexico, revealed to CBS that she was just 14 years old when she was raped by five men, including her then boyfriend.
During the assault they branded his name ‘Aaron’ in large script lettering across her neck using a pencil, needle and black ink.
‘I didn’t think that I’d get raped, let alone by people I didn’t know, let alone my boyfriend allowing it,’ she said.
She admitted that she is still struggling to come to terms with the ordeal six years on and just looking at the inking brings back painful memories.
‘It’s hard,’ she explained. ‘Right now our mirrors are covered up because I can’t look at myself.’
Similarly, a 22-year-old from the same neighborhood who wished to retain her anonymity, told NPR that she was pinned down and repeatedly tattooed with a former partner’s name when she tried to break off the relationship.
‘I was with a guy for five years. He was much older. He was really abusive toward me,’ she said.
‘After a while when I tried to finally end it, he kidnapped me, held me hostage and tattooed his name all over my body against my will.’
Target 7 reported that another female from the area who also did not want to be identified for safety reasons, was grabbed off the streets, thrown to the ground and marked by male gang members.
‘We were jumped and basically threatened that if we weren’t going to do what they said, then that would be it, and they took us and tattooed us,’ she said.
But not all victims have been forcibly tattooed.
Elena Galicia found herself in a series of abusive relationships. To placate one ex-boyfriend she had his name ‘Ricky’ inked on her hip.
‘He wanted me to show him that I was his, he was mine. And I wanted to please him. I wanted him to be happy,’ she recalled.
In a bid to put their past behind them all three women are in the the process of getting their tattoos erased by Albuquerque-based tattoo removal specialist, Dawn Maestas.
She has worked with dozens of domestic violence.victims over the years.
Explaining why inking is a common weapon, she said: ‘This is control. This is “you belong to me.”
‘I’ve had victims who have been drugged and tattooed, who have been physically held down and forced tattooed, and I get angry. I get angry because I know what these tattoos mean.’
Ms Maestas, 42, herself was in an abusive relationship for 28 years. Like Ms Galicia she voluntarily marked her ex-partner’s name on the back of her hand. She said that it made him feel ‘that he owned me.
‘This is a person who locks his arms around your legs at night, and you have to ask for permission to use the restroom. So, you know, it’s not just a tattoo.
‘It’s . . . like being in a car accident – every time you pass that intersection you remember the impact,’ she told NPR.
It was one of the first tattoos she removed.
Recounting how she felt when the mark finally disappeared she told CBS: ‘It was this very strange thing that I never thought about – that when this tattoo was gone, how lighthearted I seemed to be.
‘There was just this certain, I dunno, an elevation that took place.’
She now removes tattoos from other victims free of charge.
Ms Sanchez has only had one session so far, but already she says it has made a big difference to the way she feels.
‘I got so happy I started crying and I was looking at it and I was touching it like really? It’s like a magic eraser or something,’ she said.
‘Once it’s not visible anymore, that’s going to make me feel like a whole new person.’
However Ms Maestas she can only remove the physical memories of abuse and the mental scars longer to heal.
‘The tattoos are the one thing I get to take away,’ she added.
It is estimated that one in four women has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime.