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Erasing the Brand of Sex Trafficking

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Police officers are beginning to find more ways to recognize the signs of a victim of sex trafficking. They have noticed the victim will wear marks on his or her body that brand one to his or her owner. These tattoos might be in the form of a barcode, a name, or a crown, but they are always the victim’s reminder and a warning to others that they belong to another person.

Naticia Leon, a survivor of sex trafficking, told The Atlantic that she would dissociate in order to make her situation more bearable. She said, “At first, I would shut my emotions off temporarily. Then, over time, it became just who I was. I started being monotoned every day—like a robot being programmed. That’s how I react to things all the time now. I’m not happy. I’m not angry. I’m not sad.”

Leon continued saying, “That’s what it feels like to be trafficked. You’re not your own person. You don’t have an identity.”

While some of these survivors have finally been freed from their captors, they still carry a brand that reminds them of what they have been through. Many look for a way to remove or cover up their tattoos. Luckily, there is someone who can help. Dr. Jerome Potozkin and his wife Dr. Monica Brar of My Beauty MD in Danville, California are offering free tattoo removals for anyone who has been a victim of sex trafficking.

“They’re marked for life, so we can make a big difference for these people. Whoever owned them had a recognizable tattoo identifying that person as someone else’s property. The biggest challenge for us is getting these women to come to the office,” Dr. Potozkin told LVBX Magazine.

Dr. Potozkin uses a PicoWay laser to remove tattoos and pigmented spots from the skin. The maker of the laser, Syneron Candela, arranges transportation for survivors to the clinic.

Tattoo removal can be an expensive process and depending on the size of the tattoo, the fee can range from $500-900 per treatment and the removal process can require anywhere from five to ten treatments. The service that Dr. Potozkin offers for these women allows them a way to begin the healing process without the constant reminder of a brand.  

“We do it because we can. We have the capacity to help people,” said Dr. Potozkin.

As for Leon, she no longer sees herself as a victim. She said, “I don’t see my body as a tool anymore. I’m a mom now. I’ve escaped. So, that makes me a survivor. Now, people see me as a person and I’m appreciative of that.”

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