Dawn Maestas loves tattoos, but she loves getting rid of them even more. The 42-year-old laser tattoo-removal specialist’s two passions in life—her career and fighting domestic violence—collided one day when she received an unusual call at her Albuquerque, NM, office: a girl had been kidnapped by her abusive partner and was forcibly tattooed multiple times with his name. Could Maestas help?
She could, and she did. An abuse survivor herself, Maestas had been campaigning against domestic violence and publicly sharing her story for years. But when she met this young woman in need, tattoo removal became her primary form of activism. She removed the girl’s tattoos for free, and began offering the same service to other abuse survivors. Since then, she’s received calls for assistance from women as far away as California and Minnesota. “For these women, their tattoo is not a statement of love or a good memory,” Maestas says. “It’s all the pain, heartache, and injury someone inflicted upon them. It’s not a tattoo, it’s a brand.”
Maestas should know, since she once had her abuser’s name tattooed on her body. But that ink is long gone. In its place is the saying, “Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator. Above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.”“Now, I look at my arm,” she says, “and I know what I’m fighting for.”
By Erika W. Smith