It Happened To Me: I Was Raped By My Tattoo Artist

I had no real context or knowledge of what happened in a legal or social sense. I just knew I had a fresh, healing tattoo, and that I hated the person who gave it to me.
Publish date:
January 22, 2013
rape, tattoos, sexual assault

I haven’t really spoken about this incident with anyone but my psychologist and a few close friends. I feel xoJane is a safe space to discuss it.

To this day, the scenery of tattoo parlors upsets me. The nauseating Vaseline smell and the sound of the tattoo guns buzzing. I love tattoos and voraciously read about the various artists and styles. I have more than a few. But even three years after the incident, I get nervous and upset.

Every new tattoo almost seems like a way for me to defy the man who raped me.

The day after I was raped, I remember having a hard time opening my eyes. It was February 15, 2009. The sun blazed through my windshield. I was in my car. I spent all night crying in my Volkswagen, my driving wheel covered in a nasty mixture of tears and snot.

I wasn't really aware that I was raped and I didn't truly understand that being given something that made me mind-numbingly intoxicated and having sex against my will was considered rape -- I was naive and frankly timid. I was also raised in a deeply religious family that was entrenched in an old-world culture of victim blaming, but I never really thought of things in that way until recently.

But I knew something was wrong when I could not shake the feeling of shame and violation. I had no real context or knowledge of what happened in a legal or social sense. I just knew I had a fresh, healing tattoo, and that I hated the person who gave it to me.

I initially went to the tattoo parlor with my friend. The tattoo artist took an immediate liking to me, which I chalked up to my fabulous personality and charm. She got a fleur-de-lis. I wanted something inspired by a Cacharel print.

So he booked me for Valentine's Day. He seemed genuinely excited to work on it.

I arrived at 7:30, a little late for my appointment. The artist was already working on someone. When I arrived, their conversation stopped, and they both looked at me. Artist smiled and signaled for me to sit. The man getting tattooed looked at me with a weird expression. At the time, I thought he disliked me. I'm not so sure what that expression was anymore.

I sat and waited. Finally, the buzzing stopped and he motioned for me to sit to get my tattoo. The customer left.

Then he offered me a glass of whiskey.

I thought it was odd. Having heard friends and artists previously shriek, "Never drink before a tattoo!" made me wary of this offer. But, as previously mentioned, I was naive, and I reached for the glass of whiskey.

"What the heck?" I thought. "No one said a little drink during the tattoo is a bad idea, and the artist is offering me a drink."

Minutes after clearing the glass of the honey-tasting whiskey, I felt my body shutting down. My vision blurred. I felt my stomach in knots and went numb and comfortable. The buzzing didn't faze me. I couldn’t tell if I was drunk or sedated, but I felt like I was in a warped zone. The tattoo didn't hurt at all.

This is also where I should mention to those who have never gotten a tattoo: They hurt like fucking hell, assuming you're sober. Instead, it felt like my skin was rippling, being pulled. Just numb and vibrating. Weird. I felt sleepy.

Then I opened my eyes because I felt something odd. His head was in my crotch. I tried to speak, but my throat was dry and coarse. I just remember saying, "No."

He continued. I couldn't move. I felt like my body was wrapped in Saran wrap, my mouth full of glue. I tried to move, and it just resulted in my body slowly slithering. The truth is, in my stupor, all I could think was, "What the fuck is going on?"

He finished. After about three hours, around 11:30, I was able to stumble off the table. I shoved my card at him. He charged me, almost surprised that I was even willing to pay.

He walked me out and there was a small parade ongoing across the street. It made me sick. The whole world continued, joyous and happy. I felt torn apart and spat out. He offered to walk me to my car. I quickly declined and walked away as he tried to put his arm around my shoulder.

I still felt dizzy and nauseated. I tried to find my keys, but my backpack was overflowing with useless shit. I kicked my car. I sat on the sidewalk and silently muttered and sobbed. I felt weird, angry, out of control.

I still have the tattoo, although I hope to have it removed at some point. It's weird hating something so much. My friends tell me it's a badge of survival, but I hate his art and I hate him. The tattoo is mocking me.

More than anything, I regret not reporting him. I feel most ashamed about that because I'm afraid he is doing the same thing to other women.

I still see him at the supermarket or downtown. It takes all my willpower not to kick him in the shins or hit him over the head with box of cereal. He does not acknowledge me, though he used to text me soliciting sex until I finally changed my number.

If the retelling of this story seems disjointed, it's because it's really difficult for me to speak about this in flowery terms. It was disgusting and resulted in years of therapy and self-loathing.

People say one gains life experience through trauma. I am definitely more headstrong, confrontational and assertive because of the aftermath of the incident. To be truthful, though, I still dream of horrible things happening to this man. But I move on. So it goes.

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