Most body art is an expression of that person and their life experiences. But sometimes we forget that not all tattoos are pieces that a person willfully chooses to have put on them. They can be a branding to show ownership of that person. That’s right… a brand just like for cattle or a car.

It’s not widely publicized that I-70 is the longest sex trafficking highway in the world and it runs straight through Colorado and Denver. The last couple years I have been working with a victims advocate group that has helped women who have been forced into this lifestyle. One of my clients was taken at a very young age from her family at a gas station and put into the sex trafficking trade. She was passed around and branded with the pimp’s name every time they “traded” her.

When I met her she had a surprisingly positive attitude, and since then has always had a smile when she comes in for a treatment. She said the one thing holding her back from moving forward with her life are all the “brand names” tattooed in very obvious places all over her body. In the last year, we have slowly been removing these brands and I see her coming out of her shell. She is now 30 years old and recently told me she enrolled in nursing school. It is crucial for us to remove the ones that are on her face, and by the time she is done with school I believe they will be gone.

Hearing these kinds of stories over the last couple years of doing tattoo removal has definitely taught me not to judge a book by its cover because you never know if they chose to have themselves tattooed or if they were branded. What a world we live in.