I love tattoos. I always have. I have many, although not as many as some people do. My empty wallet and full schedule keep me from getting as many as I’d like. But I do have plans to get more. And honestly, many of my tattoos don’t mean anything. I just liked them. Some are attached to specific memories, and my left arm has four 6 inch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles wrapped around them. I’m a big kid at heart…I like Ninja Turtles. A lot. Why wouldn’t I wrap them around my arm? And eventually, my whole arm will be covered with images of the heroes in a half shell.
I recently went to my tattoo artist to work on that piece. I was going to get the villains. At least the outlines. But after looking at them, we both decided that they didn’t fit the style that we were going for just yet. He is very big into charity events, and he is running a promotion to raise money for breast cancer in a couple weeks. He is tattooing pink ribbons for $30 and donating all of the proceeds. He was talking about having a sample ribbon to show his work. I had been thinking of getting a teal ribbon on my right arm anyway, and he said the ribbon he showed off didn’t need to be pink. So it was settled. I got a large ribbon tattooed on my right forearm with the word “Voice” in front of it. After all, I speak out against sex abuse, and being a victim myself who tells my own story, I just thought it made sense.
I love it. I am very happy with it. But it has set me up for an unexpected set of circumstances. I have never been quiet about my own story of sex abuse, but I have also always had the option to tell it or not. And many factors would come into play. How well do I know this person? Where are we, and is it appropriate to talk about? How many people are around that may eavesdrop? These choices are now limited.
People ask about tattoos. That’s what they do. “What does that one mean?” It’s become a form of small talk. And sure, perhaps it’s fact that teal being the color of sex abuse awareness is less known than the fact that pink is breast cancer’s color. But that just leaves room for another question to be asked. “What color is teal for?”
People talk about wearing their heart on their sleeve. I am wearing a ribbon on mine. Despite the fact that it opens the door for more questions that I may not be prepared for, it creates more opportunities to discuss sex crimes, AVFTI, and why speaking up is important. And if a tattoo is what it takes to open those doors, then cover me from head to toe in blue ink in the shape of ribbons. I wear it like a scar. A scar that has healed and is able to possibly help others. And I am proud of that.
They say that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And perhaps it’s a cliche. But in this case, I believe it so much that I am willing to brand myself as a survivor. A voice. And I am proud to have it permanently written on my arm, for all to see.