Russian tattoo artist Yevgeniya Zakhar has offered to give free tattoos to victims of domestic violence to help hide the physical scars from abusive relationships they want to put in the past.
Zakhar posted an ad on her social media page last year offering to ink abused women for free after she heard about a Brazil tattoo artist already offering the service. Soon, she was flooded with requests — and got so stressed hearing her clients’ stories of beatings and burnings that she had to limit the number of women she sees to one day a week.
I didn’t expect to be inundated with visits,” said Zakhar, who works in Ufa, a city about 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) east of Moscow. “I had to work on two to four clients a day. It’s really scary, scary to look at this problem and hear what people are saying.”
Zakhar’s clients usually pick butterflies or floral designs to cover the visible signs of abuse. The clients confide in the artist, sharing the horrors of relationships that went from bad to violent to vicious. Turning the scars into something of their own choosing boosts the women’s self-esteem and helps them gain new perspectives on the trauma, Zakhar said. Zakhar said she has tattooed more than 1,000 women at no cost since she started reaching out to abuse victims last year. She says not one reported receiving help from police.
Domestic violence is a long-standing problem in Russia. Police estimate that about 40 percent of all violent crimes take place within families. In a survey last month by the state-run Russian Public Opinion Research Center, 19 percent of respondents said “it can be acceptable” to hit one’s wife, husband or child “in certain circumstances.”
Earlier this week, President Vladimir Putin signed into law a controversial bill decriminalizing some forms of domestic violence in Russia. The measure makes battery on a family member punishable by a fine or a 15-day arrest, if there is no bodily harm.