When Brazilian tattoo artist Flavia Carvalho was approached by a woman who wanted to cover a scar caused by a man who stabbed her in the abdomen with a blade when she turned him down in a nightclub, she realised her skills could be used for a greater cause.
Touched by how moved her client was with her new ink, Carvalho began offering free body art to survivors of domestic violence looking to conceal permanent marks on their skin.
Two years on and under the project name “A Pele da Flor” which translates to “Skin of the Flower” (and comes from the Portuguese expression meaning 'deeper than skin'), Carvalho has since transformed many women's scars into beautiful, empowering and cathartic tattoos.
Speaking about her clients to Huffington Post, Carvalho says, “The sense of affection, sisterhood and camaraderie is deeper than I ever imagined. They contact me from all over the country, as well as from abroad. They come to the studio, share their stories of pain and resilience, and they show me their scars. Embarrassed, they cry, and hug me.”
“Then we design the tattoo and we schedule the session. They become excited, optimistic. It is wonderful to see how their relationship with their bodies changes after they get the tattoos. I follow many of them on Facebook, and I see how, after being ashamed of their scarred bodies, they now post pictures in dresses, and they look happy, changed. It is transformative.”
Carvalho takes pride in helping survivors of domestic abuse restore their self-esteem and has reached out to NGOs to show her work and raise awareness of women's issues, including Brazil's Municipal Secretariat of Policies for Women, who applauded her work.
While all of her client's stories have resonated with Carvalho in some shape of form, she says, “The one that shocked me the most was the story of a 17 year-old girl who dated an older man and, for months, suffered from the physically abusive relationship. When he wanted to break up with her, he scheduled a meeting, and after they began to fight, he stabbed her several times in her abdomen, and violently raped her.
“She ended up with a perineum tear, had to undergo a number of surgeries and spent several days in the ICU [Intensive Care Unit]. She is so young, and she has been left with so many scars. The aggressor, however, was a first time offender, so he is still out on the streets.”
Carvalho is currently working with to establish a partnership with the Women's Police Station in Brazil, which will allow her to offer her services in a more active and direct way to women who report incidences of violence. She will also participate in the Women's National Day in November and the Pink October events in Brazil.
Despite the success of her project, she describes it as “a grain of sand”.
“The world is full of things that need to be addressed. We have a long way to go regarding protecting women against violence.”
To see more of Carvalho's work follow her on Facebook.