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Millions of people in the United States willingly get tattoos. As an art form, tattooing has been around for thousands of years, but recently in the developed world, they have had an insurgence of popularity. What once were symbols of gang affiliation and prison time are now considered cool and fun. And many people get tattoos to express their individuality.
But for thousands of women across the United States, a simple crown tattoo means the opposite of individuality and self-expression. For victims of sex trafficking, tattoos become a branding tool to identify who owns the woman – and if you see a crown tattoos, know that these women might be victims of sex trafficking…
In a CNN interview, Jennifer Kempton opened herself up about surviving sexual slavery in America. Her pimps had gotten her addicted to drugs and then branded her with various tattoos to mark her as their property as they passed her around to any customer who paid.
A pimp named “Salem” first owned Jennifer. He wanted everyone to know she was his property, so he tattooed his name on her skin. Eventually, Salem sold Jennifer to another pimp named “King Munch”. This man tattooed a crown on her neck along with his name. He wanted everyone to know she was just property.
Jennifer is among a group of women bought and sold on an underground sex trafficking ring. Jennifer and others like her are forced into prostitution at a young age, sometimes as young as 12 or 13. To make these women susceptible to their control, pimps often get them addicted to drugs like heroin or meth. Then they need the pimps to get their fix.
The crown tattoo usually symbolizes pimp ownership.
Jennifer, who eventually beat her drug addiction and escaped this horrible life, has started a foundation called Survivor’s Ink to help victims of sex trafficking cover up their ownership tattoos. Survivor’s Ink also helps women cover up any other scars they might have gotten while held against their will.
Jennifer describes the branding as a “pathological form of bondage.” She adds, “It ties you to those memories and it ties you to those feelings that you felt when you got that and to be able to be free of enslavement and then to make an active choice of, ”This is what I want on my body, not this man’s name or this gang’s symbol, I want my daughter’s name, I want a beautiful flower, I want a religious scripture, I want a butterfly to show that I have wings, and I can fly.’”
Survivor’s Ink helps women move beyond their past. It shows them that no matter how horribly they were treated in the past, they are strong enough to move forward and live a free life.
But this charity only helps provide women who want to cover up their scars from their former life of sex trafficking. It does not help the thousands of women still held against their will in the underground of the sex trade.
Jennifer just hopes that she can give a little hope to those who do get out.
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