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Art and activism usually make a prized duo. But art and charity also pair just as powerfully. Well, a young Brazilian tattoo artist is combining charity, activism, and her art to help victims of domestic violence heal and regain their livelihoods.

With the simple power of ink, Flavia Carvalho is turning women’s most personal insecurities into something beautiful and empowering. Between 10 and 15 women lose their lives to domestic violence every day in Brazil, and often the attitude is to blame the victim. (4)

Feeling that it was time to take initiative, Carvalho decided to take her own stand against domestic violence, through the project “A Pele da Flor” (“Deeper than Skin”).

Brazil’s “Femicide”

Last year on International Women’s Day, President Dilma Rousseff signed a new bill into law that criminalized the discriminate murder of women simply for their gender.

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“It should be noted that femicide is the killing of women for being women, in a vicious cycle of violence and torture that degrades the feminine identity,” said Nadine Gasman, UN Women representative in Brazil. “This law reinforces the policy commitment made by the President to the country, a commitment to zero tolerance of gender-based violence and to prioritizing the rights of female citizens with regard to empowerment and equality.” (6)

The most troubling part about Brazil’s “femicide” is that is still on the rise, with yearly casualties in the thousands increasing every year. In a 2013 study, Brazil ranked as the highest country in the world of female homicide rates, and those most at risk are women of color. (3)

From Inspiration to Initiative

“The idea of the project is very simple,” Carvalho said to the Huffington Post. “It is a voluntary service for tattooing over scars that have resulted from domestic violence or mastectomies. I run the project alone since no other tattoo artist has expressed interest in participating. I started the project quite recently, and I had no idea it would receive this much media attention.”

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For Flavia, the project started in 2014, when she met a client who had been stabbed with a switchblade in a nightclub. The attack had left a large scar on her abdomen, and Carvalho covered it with a tattoo. After being moved by the experience, Carvalho decided to provide free tattoos for women with scars from domestic violence or mastectomies.

The tattoo is a beautiful arrangement of tropical leaves and flowers with a radiant bluebird flying closeby.

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“The project’s name refers to the Portuguese expression ‘A flor da pele,’ which speaks of how strongly we feel when facing an extremely difficult or challenging situation,” Carvalho says. “’A Pele da Flor’ also alludes to the fact that all of us women are like flowers and deserve to have our skin protected and embellished.”

Carvalho believes her project is like “grain of sand,” addressing only of many issues that women face. She plans to partner with the Women’s Police Station, as a direct way for women to report cases of assault and abuse. She also participates in Nation Women’s Day as well as Pink October events that aid women who need to undergo mastectomy procedures.

The young artist always recommends her clients consult a physician or dermatologist before choosing to get a tattoo, in order for the tattoo to be safe and enduring. She also allows her clients to choose and help develop their designs.

The tattoos have covered all sorts of abuse scars, from gunshot wounds to stabbing scars and burn marks. One such example is a small gunshot scar on a woman’s knee that acted as a constant reminder of her abusive ex-partner. Carvalho transformed the scar into a symbol of courage and strength; a colorful owl spreading its wings.

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The founding intention of the project was to raise awareness of the prevalent issue of violence against women in Brazil. Carvalho has expressed how grateful she is to the press for picking up and sharing her story.

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“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.”

Carvalho says the feedback she gets from women is that they are uplifted and motivated from their new tattoos. She stays in touch with most of her clients and is truly gratified by how their confidence is drastically improved by their Facebook feeds and photos. “It is transformative,” she says.

Many news organizations and scholars have dubbed Brazil’s domestic violence problem as a “femicide.” Women are sexualized from a very young age, and the lives of many Brazilian women have become entangled with the world of date-rape drugs, human trafficking, and domestic violence.

If you are a victim of domestic violence

  1. Understand that men and women can fall victim to abuse and know that you are not to blame, your abuser is.
  2. Seek immediate medical attention if needed
  3. Go to a domestic violence shelter, which you can be directed to online.
  4. Seek support from people who care; be it a family member, friend or coworker. Tell them in a private place that is safe.
  5. Create a safety plan. If you have children, ensure you have a way of getting out of a potentially violent situation.
  6. File for a Protective Order against your abuser so legally they cannot harass you. Keep your Protective Order with you at all times.
  7. Appear to court on your set date on time and bring all necessary paperwork, do not bring your children. “Talk directly to the judge, not the respondent. Tell the truth. Be courteous, sincere, and speak clearly. Bring police reports, photos, and affidavits.” (2)

Flavia Carvalho’s Facebook page showcases over 350 of her designs. Give it a like to show your support for her initiative.

Images sourced from Flavia Carvalho’s Facebook page.

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