‘No Longer Victims’: Meet The Women Who Tattoos Sexual Assault Survivors

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Marlo Lualemana works in a tattoo studio in California 

The painful process of drumming ink permanently into a person’s skin is a cathartic process – at least that’s what tattoo artist Marlo Kaleo’okalani Lualemana, has seen in her clients. As an artist who helps fellow survivors of sexual assault deal with and recover from their trauma, she knows how a totally unique and permanent tattoo can be healing.

“I can relate to these clients because I’m a sexual assault survivor myself,” Lualemana, who has been tattooing for almost 11 years.” Based at Earthbound Tattoo in Monterey, California, she specialises in Polynesian and tribal body art in monochrome and colour, as well as lettering. As a custom tattooist, no two of her designs are the same.

“We share similar but different experiences, and we feel connected because of the trauma; shame; guilt and embarrassment we went through.

“Most of the time the commonality is that they want a tattoo that represent reclaiming their lives back; empowerment and reminding them that they we are no longer victims but we are survivors.”

“When you can touch people’s lives and bring happiness to your clients I feel an overwhelming sense of joy.”

A woman in her mid-20s who was sexually assaulted by a family member between the ages of 12 to 16 is among her most memorable clients. When she finally gained the courage to tell her mother, she was relieved when she gained her full support.

“My client told me this helped her immensely knowing her mother believed her and did her best to help her anyway she could. She still struggled with what happened to her but with the help of her mom she managed to get through it. She’s now in her mid-twenties working and going to college. She tells me her tattoo reminds her that she is a survivor and she will not let what happened to her take over her life.”

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