Atlanta Redemption Ink: The Art of Removal & Restoration
What if the worst moments of your life were depicted in a single mark on your body, forever etched onto your skin? Perhaps you were able to escape the abuse you endured physically, however, the physical manifestation of it on your body prevents you from escaping its wrath psychologically. This predicament haunts those who have endured the branding and scarring that accompanies physical and sexual abuse, and more specifically, those who have endured sex trafficking. Traffickers and abusers often mark their victims with barcodes, initials, and other personalized forms of imagery that symbolize trafficker possession and ownership of their victims.
Traffickers and abusers often mark their victims with barcodes, initials, and other personalized forms of imagery that symbolize trafficker possession and ownership of their victims.
Jessica Lamb is a survivor of human trafficking who learned how to transform the scarring of exploitation into manifestations of hope and freedom. After enduring the struggles of trafficking herself, Jessica found the road to redemption and recovery by extending a helping hand to others like herself. She started a non-profit, Atlanta Redemption Ink (ARI), whose goal is to restore hope to survivors by performing removal and restoration services for those who have been branded with tattoos or scarring. Since its birth in the summer of 2017, ARI has extended its helping hand to people from Georgia, all the way to California!
But how exactly did Jessica manage to turn a dream of redemption into a living reality for herself and others? The story of ARI is grounded in Jessica’s own experience and recovery. After escaping her trafficker in 2003, Jessica found solace and began to help others escape the grim reality of modern-day slavery. Five years ago, Jessica began to volunteer in the call center outreach program for 4Sarah, Inc, a faith-based non-profit that empowers women seeking to exit a life in the adult entertainment industry. Her role consisted of scanning online advertisements for sexual services and calling the women displayed in the ads to extend a line of hope to them. During this experience, the constant image of questionable tattoos, cuts, and burns flashed through her mind as she witnessed them on the bodies of the women she saw.
As she continued working in her position, the unforgettable images of such markings burned through her mind, igniting the spark of inspiration that would later become ARI. Jessica reveals, “I could relate to having those marks on my own body and I knew the hurt tied to those as well as [the] heavy load it carried on myself.” After seeing a part of herself in these girls she found online, Jessica sought to give other survivors the hope and recovery she experienced after own tattoos were covered up. Through her journey of healing, Jessica gained the inspiration she needed to change the lives of those bearing the same physical scars of slavery.
“I could relate to having those marks on my own body and I knew the hurt tied to those as well as [the] heavy load it carried on myself.”
Survivors can apply for a free tattoo removal or cover up on ARI’s website under the application tab. After their request is processed and carefully considered by a scholarship team, they are granted their request so long as a vetted provider and necessary funds are available. Jessica emphasizes that the process does not end there - ”Long after the appointment, we stay in touch with each individual just to offer that extra encouragement and support.” It remains clear that ARI is more than just a beacon of hope for survivors tainted by the physical realities of domestic and sexual abuse; it is a source of constant healing and renewal for those inflicted by a past of misfortune and exile. ARI brings survivors solace and comfort by letting them know they are not fighting alone.
ARI has also done a remarkable job in raising awareness for the issues of human trafficking, self-harm, gang violence, addiction, and sexual/ domestic violence. By establishing relationships with many organizations, tattoo artists, and removal specialists from across the country, ARI is coordinating a multi-faceted effort to prioritize survivor care for anyone that needs it. This organization is enabling people from all walks of life to partake in the fight to restore dignity to survivors. Jessica teaches us an important lesson - that we must not let our hardships define us; we must find the strength to seek help and overcome them through courage, patience, and in this case, a love for artistic creation.
Below are some pictures of the work ARI is doing in the lives of survivors. Please be advised that the following images display marks of self-harm that may be triggering to some.
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About the Author
Sarah Beech is a sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin who is studying psychology and government. She is most passionate about fighting against the various human rights abuses that occur around us. In her free time she likes to watch Netflix, hang out with her friends, and try new restaurants. Her favorite quote is, "Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game" (from A Cinderella Story).