Russian tattoo artist helps women hide the scars of domestic violence

March 30th, 2017

Using flowers and butterflies, one Russian tattoo artist is helping victims of domestic violence hide the physical scars from abusive relationships they want to put in the past.

Yevgeniya 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.

Hearing her clients’ stories of beatings and burnings, though, was so stressful 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 Ms Zakhar, who works in Ufa, a city about 1,200 kilometres east of Moscow.

Earlier this week, President Vladimir Putin signed into law a controversial bill decriminalising 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.

Domestic violence is a long-standing problem in Russia. Police estimate about 40 per cent of all violent crimes take place within families. In a survey last month by the state-run Russian Public Opinion Research Centre, 19 per cent of respondents said “it can be acceptable” to hit one’s wife, husband or child “in certain circumstances”.

Supporters of the new law insisted it did not encourage or sanction violence, but instead gaves families a chance to reconcile after what the bill’s co-author, Olga Batalina, described as an “emotional conflict, without malice, without grave consequences.”

Yevgeniya 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.

“Girls are willing to talk, often because it will be the last time they speak about the scars,” she said. “They don’t talk about it later because they will be talking about their beautiful tattoo, not a scar.”

Katarina Golovkova underwent eight hours of surgery to save her arm after her boyfriend threw her against a window five years ago.

She thought about getting a tattoo to cover the scars, but did not have the courage to visit a tattoo artist before she spotted Zakhar’s ad.

“People saw it and asked, ‘What is this scar about?'” Ms Golovkova recalled.

“It was a constant reminder. You see this arm every day, it’s there. At least now I can freely open it up, and people say, ‘How cool!'”

Ms Golovkova, who was stalked by her boyfriend for weeks after she finally left him, had not heard about Russia’s new domestic violence law, but she did not like the idea.

Ms Zakhar said she had tattooed more than 1,000 women at no cost since she started reaching out to abuse victims last year.

She said not one reported receiving help from police.

“The girls say, ‘What’s the point? Why go to the police if they are not helping?'”

If you need advice on domestic violence please contact Bloxham Legal on 9221 5815, or for a free initial consultation.