When Tattoos Mean Slavery, Not Freedom (Photos)

| by Charles Roberts

A former sex slave has started a nonprofit dedicated to helping other survivors in a way she says was "liberating" -- getting tattooed. 

In a special report on sex slavery and branding, Jennifer Kempton spoke to CNN about her troubling past and explained a practice called "branding" -- that is, when a pimp tattoos a woman with his mark to demonstrate ownership over her. 

Although Kempton has since escaped the life that nearly destroyed her, she admits it was difficult to move forward, given the four "brands" her previous pimps made her tattoo on her body.

"The horror that I had seen, the violence I had to suffer, the misery that I had lived in, the rapes I went through, and the men I was sold to -- I was reminded of all of it, every time," she said. 

Finally, she was able to raise enough money to visit a tattoo parlor and cover up one of the four tormenting tattoos. 

"It was so liberating to take his name off of my body and have what I want there," she said.

While the first cover up showed progress, Kempton still had three more tattoos to cover. When she shared her story with a human trafficking advocate, she couldn't have guessed what happened next. 

"She immediately took a picture of [the tattoo] and sent it to a family member of hers, and that family member agreed to sponsor me to have the rest of my cover ups done," she said. 

It was this generous gesture that inspired Kempton to create Survivor's Ink -- a nonprofit for trafficking survivors to have their "brands" covered up with tattoos of their choice, and at no cost. 

Since the nonprofit started in September 2014, Kempton has helped many women reclaim their lives. One of them is Angela Ritter. 

After 13 years as a sex slave and a drug addict, Ritter ran away from her pimp, telling him she was going to the store. 

"I just reached a point where I felt death on me, I mean, literally felt death on me every single day," Ritter said. "It's like God was just screaming at me that if I didn't get help and get out now, that I was going to die there."

With no money to cover up the tattoo on her arm, Ritter would often resort to wearing bandages, but as soon as she discovered Survivor's Ink, her prospects took a turn for the better. 

"Who would have ever dreamed that there would be someone willing to dedicate their time, their materials ... to freeing us from a wretched, dark past?" she said. 

With her nonprofit up and running in Columbus, Ohio, since February, Kempton says she's trying to make "branding" a felony assault in the state, according to WTTE.

Sources: CNN, WTTESurvivor's Ink / Photo credit: WTTESurvivor's Ink

Do you think it should be a felony assault crime to tattoo a person with a brand?
Yes - 0%
Yes - 0%