One thing customers may notice as they step inside 3 Ravens Tattoo and Piercing is how well-lit and open the space is.
What they may not know right away is that Jim and Devon Mellor, a married tattoo artist duo at 3 Ravens, have recently added another bright light to their space by offering a free service of covering the tattoos or brandings of survivors of sex trafficking.
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As reported in The Red & Black, these Athens tattoo artists feel that covering the tattoos sex trafficking survivors forcefully received while being trafficked helps survivors move forward.
According to the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners Partners for Vulnerable Youth, sex trafficking victims are forced to get a tattoo that shows they belong to a certain pimp.
“These marks carry through long after someone is lucky enough to be liberated from that life,” Devon said. “It’s the last thing that someone who’s struggling to go from being trafficked to get on their feet is going to have money for or put money toward.”
The most common tattoos are crowns, roses, names and even barcodes, Jim said. The tattoos typically can be found on victims’ wrists or necks.
Men and women have gone to the Mellors to cover tattoos which is when they tell their story to the artists.
“They were not forthcoming with it until you have them in the chair and kind of talk with them for a while, and then it comes out what [the tattoo] really is,” Devon said.
For Devon, providing free cover-up tattoos is her way of supporting survivors through their process of moving on from this part of their lives.
“It’s like therapy,” Devon said. “It’s a physical expression of a lot of the emotional stuff that’s going on inside their head that can’t get out. It’s a very physical, visual transformation.”
Jim has seen this as a life-changing experience for some clients.
“[The mark] takes away someone’s self-value … and when you take the tag away, everything changes,” Jim said.
Covering up the marks is usually finished in one setting, Devon said. This way survivors only have to go through the experience once, which makes a tattoo cover-up more appealing than a tattoo removal.
Jennifer Davidson, an Athens resident and employee at Horton’s Drug Store, approached Jim and Devon after reading a journal article about the marks sex trafficking survivors receive.
With her background in forensic interviewing, Davidson now steers those looking for tattoo cover-ups toward 3 Ravens.
Davidson plans on reaching out to the police department, local sexual assault center The Cottage and area homeless shelters to let them know about 3 Ravens’ service.
“It’s very dark and disheartening to think that these things happen around us. But it’s important for us to know as a community that they do happen around us,” Davidson said.