"This is my reminder of how far I have come and for all those unheard voices of children and survivors. I had this done today at Burnin’ Hell Tattoos, by an awesome, friendly, talented artist called Kelly McKinnon. A genuine person interested in the meaning behind my mark. I feel so proud of this and something I will forever treasure, love to all survivors xx”
Danielle’s Mark, before and after black light.
“I personalized my mark by telling my artist to add bamboo inside the print. Despite what many people think Bamboo is grass and not a tree it is able to essentially rejuvenate itself. It’s strong and resilient and I now see myself in the same light.”
"I wanted to share my tattoo with you. I got it on my wrist so I can see that I can always remember I am stronger than the hurt. I love the idea of the tattoo as a sign we are not alone. I changed the color to blue and green to show the rebirth of self after such a horrific act."
Sarah and Rachel’s Best Friend Marks.
"My best friend and I just got matching Marks on Friday! I have the one with the stars around it, one star for each person I know who is also a survivor. We decided that green was a better color for us, not only is it our favorite color, but it also symbolizes growth. I like thinking of it like it is the growth that you see in the forest after a wildfire. We grow, and become stronger. I plan on getting as many stars added on as needed." —Rachel
John’s Mark, and story:
[includes somewhat graphic depictions of physical and sexual abuse; take care in reading if you’re easily triggered by these things]
It was all I knew … How could I have survived this?
I am 57 and for over 50 years I had to tell myself … NO … convince myself that those memories weren’t there, they weren’t real, they were locked up and suppressed … “Shit John, don’t be a drama queen … it wasn’t so bad, stop being stupid, in fact you really enjoyed the sex didn’t you … it was really your fault your useless aren’t you?”
My tattoo has been designed with the idea that I am a Survivor … through Strength and Courage … but my true strength has come from my healing … I can now Forgive and I Protect my children and my loving wife. I am ever vigilant about not continuing the abuse cycle.
I grew up in a family of 4, Mum, Dad my older Sister and I. People looking in would have seen a high functioning father, a very talented and highly regarded musician, my mother (an ex-nurse) was on the social pages and did some modelling. We lived a lie … a mask … an operatic tragedy.
My father was a violent man which was fueled by his addiction to alcohol. My earliest memories was my sister hiding me in the garden, so that Dad couldn’t beat me once again. Unfortunately hiding sometimes worked and when it did she was beaten instead. I learnt early that home was a dangerous place … not somewhere you felt at ease, it was always one drink away from another rage.
My first recollection of receiving Dad’s ‘special’ attention happened at around 6 years old … I was hiding in a different garden and he found me … stripped me and you know the rest. Rage and lust took what was left of my innocence. What I didn’t know was that my Sister had already been in his sights earlier and she thought by silently suffering she was protecting me, as I thought I was protecting her … only recently (after Mum’s passing) did we discovered the others pain.
When I went to school, I was an awkward boy, lacking in confidence, often day dreaming … trying to go to a happier place in my mind. The school asked that I be taken to a child psychologist who tested and probed and decided I was ‘normal’, but had some issues with my father. No Shit Sherlock!! It wasn’t the psychologists fault as I would never have told him what life was really like. He spoke in private to Dad, who was visibly upset and angry. I now know that Dad went to my sister and told her that all of MY problems were HER fault …because she was such a terrible sister!! She has carried that guilt ever since … Dad would visit every 2nd or 3rd night … not only would I have to bend over, but he taught me how to suck and swallow, but always with the threat of my sisters death if I told anyone.
Life continued like that for many years … we travelled overseas, and lived in a Europe and the USA … but his visits continued. Always we remained silent and always Mum failed to protect us.
At 14 we returned to Melbourne and both Dad and Mum entered the swingers scene … nothing wrong with that when its between consenting swingers … except when you include your children!! I was leased out to parties as their personal “slut boy” … “Of course you can fuck the retard” everyone who asked would be told.
This continued until I was 16, when I eventually said NO !! … I was kicked out of home … and lived in a toilet block for 6 months, pulling tricks to get enough to buy my lunch at school. Yes I was still at school and doing really well there. It was an elite private school in Melbourne’s leafy east. I would wash and hang my school shirt up in my school locker in the evening after school and go to my toilet block, about an hours tram ride from school. I would tell no one because I was too ashamed, recently I alluded it to an old friend who didn’t understand why I couldn’t tell anyone … How does a kid tell their friends or anyone about that shit?
Luckily I was a good natural sportsman and this allowed me the freedom to be popular and escape too much scrutiny. My sport became my refuge from my life … school was my safe place, at least I was considered to be human there, so I didn’t act out as I knew that I couldn’t afford to lose that!!
Eventually one night I went home in a rage and found that Dad had just beaten Mum and raped my sister … I threw him out, he was never to return. Mum attempted suicide due to the shame of having a failed marriage … I often wondered how she justified keeping a marriage which screwed up the kids so much.
After a difficult period of adulthood (no I have not been to jail) … a different story so I wont bother you with it here … I am now recovered … mmm … well maybe a little bit damaged still. I have my darling wife, and children and her extended family. She is supporting me on this journey of discovery and exposure.
I have spent most of my life working in various community agencies changing systems and programs so that they actually assist people to make real changes in their lives … its part of my creed to protect.
I have started an agency that supports survivors of the Stolen Generations and we are assisting people to tell their story to the Royal Commission into Sexual Abuse. Unfortunately the Commission doesn’t include those children abused by their family at home, but I hope that this snippet of information of my own “journey of healing”, will help someone.
In closing, the only thing I know for sure is that as children it was NEVER our fault … but our strength and resilience is such that we survived. BUT our LEGACY is that we must use our strength to PROTECT. That is why I was so taken aback when I saw The Survivors Mark Tattoo … it says exactly what I believe.
Thanks for reading
Survivor to protector. The butterfly is the metamorphosis from one to the next. Notice the shading still has the dark as well. Sometimes we go back to surviving.
"It’s an everyday struggle. Triggers are devastating and anxiety can be crippling. But to be strong and fight everyday to over come is priceless, and you never know when your story might benefit someone else. We can have an anxious free life or majority and be happy. We all deserve it. Much love to you all.
The names above the marks are those of my children. Underneath says: I survive for me, so I can live for them.”