Former self harmers get powerful tattoos to cover the scars

Mar 8, 2016 at 1:03 p.m. ET

Lately, tattoo artists around the world have been selflessly offering up their services for free to victims of varying abuse. The latest to do so is Whitney Develle from Brisbane, Australia.

Develle is an avid Instagram user and posts many gorgeous photos of her work there. As such, she already had a pretty sizable following. However, those numbers went up significantly when she posted this message on her page last week:

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Apparently, she had previously put out a message to offer free tattoos to victims of self-abuse, but got such an overwhelming response, she had to amend it.

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"I am only able to provide around 50 free day sittings, 1-2 each week until the end of the year. Please note that given the overwhelming amount of beautiful people out there, I have decided to dedicate more of my time to offering highly discounted rates to anyone who is seeking to move forward from their past and embark on a new beginning," Develle wrote on Instagram.

One to two free tattoos a week for a year is still a pretty incredible gift to give total strangers. However, she had no idea the post would go viral, and has since been flooded with requests. As she is only one woman, she can only take on so many, but she still plans to offer as many sharply discounted tattoos to people who have suffered self-harm as she can.

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Since the post went viral, Develle and a friend have been replying to the truckload of email requests night and day. While she's certainly moved by how many people her post has touched, it also saddens her, because that means there are a huge number of self-harmers out there.

“The hardest part was that statistically probably 98 percent of [those who had written in] were people who had self-harmed," Develle told 9 News Australia. “Majority of them were too scared to speak with a tattooist out of fear of being judged.”

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Develle said the idea to offer these pro bono tattoos came from a friend who self-harmed as a way of coping with an eating disorder. While she's emotionally worked through it, she still has these marks of shame on her body. When people point them out or ask her about them, it's as if she's confronted by her past all over again. Putting a tattoo over these scars gives people a chance to start a new conversation about art and creativity, rather than personal troubles that are no longer an issue. Her friend was one of the first to receive a scar-covering tattoo, and was delighted with the results.

“[Afterwards] people were asking her about her tattoo. The scars became irrelevant — a thing of the past," said Develle.

Develle's tattoos are turning an ugly past into a beautiful present. Now all she needs is to hire more staff to meet her already overwhelming workload for the year!

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