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Domestic violence and sex trafficking survivors reclaim their life with tattoo removal

By Alyx Sacks

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    INDIANOLA, Iowa (KCCI) — Nikki Calhoun is ready to tell her story.

“I am a victim of domestic violence,” Calhoun said. “You get isolated, you’re isolated, and you’re made to believe that you have nobody, and you know, you start to feel like you’re just an inch tall.”

That’s the emotional trauma she says she’s still healing from. And now she’s found herself in the chair of an Indianola business looking for a clean slate.

“It’s just a name, but to me, the name is more,” Calhoun said.

Her forearm bears the name of one of her abusers.

“Having to mentally deal with knowing that you’re going to have to face that every day is a hard thing to do,” Calhoun said.

And that is why Calhoun is reclaiming her skin and her life.

Clean Slate Tattoo Removal CEO Brian Marks knows all too well the emotional damage hidden in ink.

“The business I’ve been dreaming about just helping people for a long time. You know, I figured out that it was going to be my purpose and I think all of God for me is put that on my heart, you know, start this business and help as many people as I can,” Marks said.

In an effort to pay it forward and empower victims, Clean Slate is offering free or reduced tattoo removal to survivors of domestic abuse or sex trafficking.

Clean Slate uses laser tattoo removal. In many cases, like Calhoun, removing a tattoo may take a handful of appointments. It all depends on the size and type of tattoo. KCCI sat in on Calhoun’s fourth removal appointment. She said the pain is minimal. Marks described it as a light snapping of a rubber band.

“A lot of sex trafficking victims have branding of some sort. A lot of ex-gang members have tattoos that are no longer in their story,” Marks said.

Calhoun says she is deeply grateful and wants victims of abuse to know they are worthy of help.

To learn more about Clean Slate Tattoo removal and ways you can help, head to their website cleanslateiowa.com.

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