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Til It Happens to You: Tattoos for Sexual Assault

Nov. 21, 2016
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“It symbolizes that I am free and that I can't change what he did to me, I can only grow from it. It's as if a part of me was taken that night and I can't seem to get it back still to this day, but this tattoo shows me I can do it. I can keep going on because I'm free of him and I'm free from the past.”

Emilyann Davinroy, 20, was 18 years old when she was sexually assaulted by someone she considered to be a friend. While at an employee housing center for a resort she was working for in Tahoe, California, she became intoxicated and passed out in her attacker’s bed, where he proceeded to assault her. 

“I struggled the most with the hatred after the assault.” said Davinroy. “The hate for myself for being there. I hated him and I hated that no one stopped him. Not even a word.”

Brooke Moreland, 20, was 18 years old when she went to visit a friend and was gang raped. In a small town outside of Charleston, South Carolina, Moreland, who was bored at home because her girlfriend was out of town, decided to reach out to her old classmate to see if he wanted to get together. Agreeing, he explained that he didn’t have a car and requested for her to come to his house. Once there, he told her to take a seat in his room while he grabbed a few things. 

“I heard multiple voices.” said Moreland. “I heard laughing. I heard them walking closer. It was a group of 5 or 6 guys. He walked back into the room with them. I saw that a couple of them had handguns in their waist bands. Then it happened; I was not only raped but I was gang raped. At the end of it all they were laughing and they said, "that's how the C****** do it, run and tell that."”

Breana Johnson, 24, was 19 years old when the man she was dating forcefully pushed her into the backseat of his car and raped her. For the next four years of her life she struggled with depression, anorexia, bulimia and suicide.  

“He didn't understand that when I was telling him "No" and pushing him away from me that that meant that I didn't want to have sex.” said Johnson. “He pushed me into the back of his car on his lunch break in broad daylight and pulled my pants down, repeating that he just wanted to "put it in for just a second.” I wanted to scream out for help but there was this sick twisted part of me that was embarrassed and ashamed.” 

On February 16th, Lady Gaga sang the song “Til It Happens to You,” while 50 survivors of sexual assault surrounded her at this year’s Academy Awards show. In an act of solidarity, Lady Gaga and the survivors who joined her on stage got matching tattoos to symbolize their unity in being sexual assault survivors. The tattoo itself was designed by Jacqueline Lin, one of the survivors who joined Gaga on stage. Emilyann, Brooke and Breana are three of the many individuals who were inspired by this act and have made the choice to get the tattoo themselves.

“To me it represents that I am a victim of sexual assault,” said Johnson. “It represents unity, love and support. It represents a horrible thing that happened to me and happens to so many people around the world daily. It's a voice to speak up and fight.”

According to the RAINN association, every 109 seconds someone in the U.S. alone is sexually assaulted. On average, there are 288,820 individuals, ages 12 or older, who are raped and sexually assaulted each year in the United States. Although what happened can never be erased, Emilyann, Brooke, and Breana are three individuals among many who are taking a stand and speaking out about their assault to unify and inspire others who are struggling with it themselves.

“My message would be, do not blame yourself.” said Davinroy. “I used to think maybe it was what I had on, or that I was too nice. But I wasn't the problem. My attackers were. I'd tell any survivor stay strong. It is hard but it will get better. That you’re still beautiful, and you're never alone. It's not your fault. No matter if you were drunk or sober or had on a short skirt or pants, with makeup on or not. It's not about you. There are bad people in this world, but keep on shining. What happened doesn't define you. You still have a beautiful soul, with so much to live for. Never change, just keep getting stronger.”

Images via Kathleen Johnson