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    The campaign 'Matriarchy' offers abused women the option to tattoo over scars and leave the pain of the past behind. | Photo: EFE

Published 2 June 2018

"I want to reach all the women who have suffered violence... so that they trust us to cover their scars," said tattoo artist Paola Santander.

Domestic violence affects a third of women worldwide and some Latin American tattoo artists are now employing their skills to assist victims on their path towards healing.

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Gamin Art Studio in Bolivia was one of the country's first shops to initiated the campaign 'Matriarchy,' offering free tattoos to abused women, safe from judgment or discrimination in an effort to leave the scars of their past behind.

"I want to reach all the women who have suffered violence in their relationship, in the family, collective or medical negligence, so that they trust us to cover their scars, close a cycle and open a new one or simply leave the past behind," said tattoo artist Paola Santander, also a victim of abuse.

The lengthy tattoo sessions often become a type of therapy for the women involved, allowing them a safe environment in which to share their stories.

In an interview with EFE, Santander recounted stories of cuts and burns received in family fights or from impassioned ex-husbands or boyfriends.

"It is not that we are erasing all the damage they have done, but we are eliminating the scar, covering it so that when the woman sees the place where her scar was, she sees something that makes her smile," she said.

"We want everyone to reintegrate into society, so that they can get work – and sometimes a scar is an impediment – and so they do not suffer discrimination."

For 24-year-old abuse victim Doris, her new floral tattoo will allow a painful part of her to disappear. When she was four years old, her grandmother maliciously threw a pot of boiling water at her, scarring her foot.

"In one way or another, it helps you to forget and when it is covered you do not have that memory that is like a cross that you carry all your life," Doris said.

"I want to cover a scar that embarrasses me when I wear an openwork shoe or go to the pool; it looks ugly and I do not want everyone to be looking and asking me what I did."

Similar movements are now rippling across the continent, appearing in Brazil, Argentina and parts of the United States.

Santander said: "It is not something that we can solve alone, but we do want to contribute a grain of sand so that it helps more people to reconsider and that there are more initiatives like this."

The Matricarchy movement, which began May 27, will continue until August.

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