Artist covers domestic violence scars by offering women free tattoos

Sep 9, 2015 at 3:32 p.m. ET
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Tattoos are often gotten to mark special occasions, such as a bachelorette party, graduation or a first trip to Vegas. However, this talented Brazilian tattoo artist has found an altogether different yet equally important purpose for tattoos to serve.

Flavia Carvalho is giving free tattoos to women who have been victims of domestic violence. The hope is that these beautiful and personal body art creations will help hide the scars left from these violent incidents and allow the scar owners to finally look beyond them.

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The project, which Carvalho calls "A Pele da Flor" ("The Skin of the Flower"), was inspired by a woman who came to her two years ago, wanting a scar on her stomach covered by a tattoo. The woman had been stabbed by a man she'd met at a nightclub in response to her rejecting his advances. The memory alone is a terrible burden to bear — it makes perfect sense that she would want the ugly reminder to be hidden under something pretty.

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When Carvalho had finished the tattoo and the woman saw it, she was truly touched. Her reaction incited Carvalho to offer her services free of charge to fellow victims of violence. She told The Huffington Post, "Each tattoo would act as an instrument for empowerment and a self-esteem booster."

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She also volunteers this service to women who've had a double mastectomy, which, while not an act of violence, is an incredibly emotional procedure to experience. A personalized tattoo gives them something else to focus on besides a scar that signifies a loss. And Carvalho encourages the women to pick a design that really speaks to them and raises them up.

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One of the most surprising things for her has been the impact her offering has had on the women who come to her. "The sense of affection, sisterhood and camaraderie is deeper than I ever imagined," She told the Huffington Post. The experience seems to be incredibly therapeutic for them, because she encourages them to share their painful stories, and then together they design an image to mask their scars.

"It is wonderful to see how their relationship with their bodies changes after they get the tattoos. I follow many of them on Facebook, and I see how, after being ashamed of their scarred bodies, they now post pictures in dresses, and they look happy, changed. It is transformative."

Carvalho, who works in an industry dominated by men, is thrilled her little project has received such significant media attention, although she never expected it. Her hope is to be able to help as many women as she can, and as such, she intends to partner with the Women's Police Station so that her services will be more readily available to domestic violence survivors.

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But as she says so eloquently, her work, while wonderful and inspiring, "is a grain of sand." Hopefully the media attention surrounding Carvalho's work will raise awareness and inspire more people to offer up a helping hand.

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