Personal Reflections: Meagan Corrado, DSW

….Tattoo Monologues sends a powerful message to tattooed trauma survivors like me. We don’t have to cower in the shame of our trauma. We don’t have to hide our ink. They are a part of our story.

The collective voices of the women featured in this book present an alternative narrative about tattoos. Tattoos are not only for sailors and slaves. They are not only for gang members and bikers and social outcasts. They are also for social workers, teachers, and students. They are for accountants, medical professionals, and homemakers. They are for artists, therapists, and lawyers.

Despite the controversial history of tattoos, Tattoo Monologues offers an alternative frame for understanding and appreciating not only their symbolism, but the narratives that inspire them. This book suggests that we can reclaim a medium shrouded in stigma. We can rewrite the narrative. Isn’t that what trauma healing is all about: reclaiming that which was lost, transforming the pain, making meaning, and regaining control? …

Tattoos and Trauma: Sandra Bloom M.D.

….How do tattoos relate to trauma? Trauma leaves sudden, irevocable marks on the brain, body, mind, and spirit. These permanent traumatic imprints create a profound sense of loneliness. They cause the trauma survivor to feel detached and alienated from themselves and from others. They shatter the individual’s fundamental understanding of safety. They leave the person feeling out of control as thoughts, feelings, and memories chaotically intermingle with one another. The mark, the tattooed imprint that the trauma leaves on the brain is referred to by one author as a “quantum transformation” (Fosha, 2006). Everything changes in an instant, and this change is not linear or progressive: it is earth-shattering and jarring.

Tattoos represent a personal and public attempt at symbolically capturing pieces of an individual’s narrative, and unlike the disconnected scars left behind by trauma, tattoos leave behind “Scars filled with ink” (p.87) (Fruh& Thomas, 2012), and “whatever their content, however unique or generic, however badly or well inked, however their stories are told (truthfully or as complete fabrications), tattoos tell a story about a person’s relationship with their body and their relationship with the world” (p.156) (Lee, 2012)…
This book is transformative. Not only does it provide trauma survivors with the opportunity to verbalize the previously unspeakable, but it provides the reader with the opportunity to bear witness to another person’s pain and triumph. Although I have no plans on tattooing my weathered body, Tattoo Monologues fostered a new appreciation and understanding for tattooing, demonstrating that we are never too old to change…..

Author Reflections

Donna L. Torrisi, MSN

Body art can tell personal stories and much like talking to a caring individual such as a friend or therapist, when linked to a difficult or traumatic life, it may restore one’s sense of well-being. As Director of a Community Health Center for 27 years and as a Nurse Practitioner for over forty years, I became fascinated with my patients’ stories behind their tattoos. When I began to ask my female patients about their markings, themes of trauma, pain, and loss emerged and the art indelibly marked on their bodies seemed to play a part in their healing and redemption. Compelled by this theme, I pledged someday I would create a photo story book bringing these inked narratives to life. My partners, Dr. John Giugliano, LCSW added a clinical component following each story, and Ken Kauffman, added the pictorial dimension.

John Giugliano, Ph.D. LCSW

When I was invited to share the authorship of this project, I was captivated. There are many books about tattoos and even more about trauma but few, if any, exist about the connection between the two. As a society we can all benefit by understanding how trauma affects the brains of children and progresses to impact mental and physical health into adulthood. With an enhanced understanding of the symptoms and behaviors that result from trauma, we can create a safe and culturally-sensitive milieu. Additionally, it enables us to respond in a manner that avoids re-traumatization and escalates empathy and compassion. Part of the therapeutic process is telling one’s story. In the following pages you will witness these women’s stories told in their own way.

Ken Kauffman, Photographer

Who amongst us reveals their deepest pain and anguish, out loud and in public? When one is traumatized, the events and effects commonly remain cloaked in the shadows. Only the most courageous unveil their angst, helping themselves and others in the process. When I was asked by Donna Torrisi to participate in a project about trauma and tattoos, I had no idea I was about to spend time with the bravest people I have ever met. I had never viewed tattoos as the confessional art form that I now know they can be or spent much time thinking about trauma. Tattoos, as I have learned, are so much more than decorative references to relationships, popular culture or whims, but can be deeply emblazoned mementos of experiences that transform a life forever. Trauma has become a bit more understood by the general public but remains a phenomenon needing compassion and care. I have had the honor of being in the company of these extraordinary folks who chose to communicate their stories— stories conveying that healing is possible and joy and love will be reclaimed on the leading boundary of their lives. Thank you to those who have volunteered your histories; your profound sharing has increased the awareness of us all. In this book, and the film, we bring these stories to life.

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