#BeTheKey: Tattoos and Branding

This information was gathered from our survey of 300 prostituted women through our social network outreach program.  Every couple days over the month of August, we are adding a new stat from our findings to help you better understand the women we are working with.  Read the whole series right here on the Free Our Girls blog.

Of the women whose social media pages were observed in this Free Our Girls study, 66% had visible tattoos in their photos.  Because many tattoos are hidden by hair styles, jewelry and clothing, it is believed that many more have tattoos than were observed purely off the photos that were posted.

What does this tell us about women in the commercial sex industry?  First of all, that similar to drug and alcohol use, tattoos are a widely accepted part of this culture.  The tattoos observed fell into a few main categories including: phrases and quotes, names, and symbols.  The phrases and quotes were often motivational in nature and sometimes included religious references such as “only God can judge me.”  The women who displayed tattoos with names were most often the name of their pimp, but also included a family member or child’s name.  The most common symbol featured in tattoos observed was a crown, often with their pimp’s name or initials.  A tattoo symbol that is increasing in popularity is the “hashtag” (#) symbol, followed by a word or acronym indicating their membership within this sub culture.  Tattoos were featured on almost every body part, including the face, with the most common being on the lower back/buttocks, the pelvic region, neck and throat, and wrist.

Not only are tattoos in general accepted within this subculture, but they are often expected, respected and demanded.  Branding a woman’s body with his name marks a trafficker’s property.  Many woman have been branded over time by multiple traffickers as they are re-exploited again and again.  A common theme among these women is, after getting away from their abuser, is to get the tattooed name covered up.  Cover-up work was a common theme observed on many of these women’s pages, and is a need from our community for women leaving commercial sexual exploitation to help them move on from the constant reminder of the abuse and exploitation that they endured at the hands of this person.

The most common tattoos observed were crowns and initials. A new popular tattoo includes the

The most common tattoos observed were crowns and initials. A new popular tattoo includes the “hashtag” (#) symbol followed by an acronym relating to prostitution and the pimp culture.

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