United States. Board-certified American Society for Laser Medicine & Surgery (ASLMS) physicians across the country have volunteered to remove branding tattoos free of charge for survivors of trafficking! This pro bono service, known as the New Beginnings Tattoo Removal Program, has been created in partnership with the National Trafficking Sheltered Alliance (NTSA), a community of service providers working to enhance resources and increase access to care for survivors of trafficking, and is open to all survivors with branding tattoos. By partnering with NTSA’s network of 100+ affiliate members that collectively identify and serve the needs of survivors across America, deserving individuals are now able to connect with highly skilled ASLMS physicians who are interested in delivering this vital service free of charge.
Many survivors are branded by their traffickers with tattoos conveying ownership, including names, symbols, and barcodes. This dehumanizing practice can often be a reminder of the trauma a survivor has endured and therefore act as a barrier in the healing process. This makes the removal of the brand an important step in allowing survivors to reclaim agency over their bodies. A recent study published in the Lasers in Surgery and Medicine Journal, Liberating More Than Light: Laser Removal of Branding Tattoos is Impactful in the Recovery of Sex Trafficking Survivors (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/lsm.23612), presented a needs and impact survey of 40 programs serving survivors. Of the estimated 3,200 survivors supported by these programs, over 1,000 were at an appropriate recovery stage to undergo laser tattoo removal. On a scale of 1–10, with 10 being the most impactful on recovery, the removal of branding tattoos received an average impact score of 9.2.
Paul M. Friedman, MD, who serves as President of ASLMS, proposed a philanthropic campaign establishing a national directory to connect sex trafficking survivors seeking the removal of branding tattoos with interested ASLMS board-certified physicians. “ASLMS is the ideal professional society to establish a philanthropic national registry of physicians for survivor tattoo removal,” said Friedman. “Our board-certified physicians have the expertise and devices to help human trafficking survivors in their recovery process. In just a few months, 75 members have volunteered, and we plan to expand the network even further across the country.”
“We are so grateful for ASLMS and look forward to collaborating with them to empower survivors across the country to experience another level of freedom and agency,” stated Melissa Yao, Executive Director of NTSA. This national directory is now live and accessible to survivors and programs across the U.S. Those interested in this initiative can learn more at New Beginnings Branding Tattoo Removal Program (https://www.aslms.org/new-beginnings) and by viewing the New Beginnings video (https://youtu.be/E2i49FQtxUw), produced with the support of Candela Medical.