Here’s the fourth story in our series “For the Love of Tattooing, the Transformative Tattoo”, that we are presenting with our good friends over at openoureyes.org. To learn more about this series, check out our introduction blog here. We hope you enjoy!.
As a child I spent many hours at my mother’s bedside, working as hard as I could to make her laugh, or even just crack a smile. It was like a full time job, one that I was hopelessly devoted to trying to figure out. I would set up elaborate puppet shows, creating characters and skits mimicking my favorite late night shows like SCTV and Saturday Night Live. Some days were better than others, with a majority of my days leaving me feeling like a comic bombing on stage. We sat there, in the same room, both feeling misunderstood and alone, in a small room yet we were miles apart. As a child, I knew my mother was suffering, but I couldn’t understand why. It wasn’t until after a particularly bad public breakdown that my mother quietly connected with me. One day, in the dark, smoky surroundings of her room, she began to open up. She went on about the person she was, how strong she was, following every statement with “you’d have loved her” as if the “her” she spoke of was an old friend that had long passed away. Her stories built up to one point: downtown Chicago late one night. She had been a social worker and was working late. As she walked home, she was pulled into an alley way, where she was attacked and sexually assaulted. This was my first exposure to hearing the word “rape”. I quickly asked about what her husband at the time did, did he go on a vigilante spree searching for the assailant? No, he didn’t. He instead question her motives for being out that late, for how she was dressed, and for letting it happen. This became my first exposure to idea of “victim shaming”. I sat, silent, dumbfounded and numb. How could the person you love, your partner, blame you for this horrendous act?
That night in Chicago was also the beginning of my kind, beautiful mother’s battle with mental illness and addiction. This night in Chicago is where the long loneliness began for her, forever changing her life, along with the life of her only son. For years I dwelled in anger, anger for the man that committed this act, anger for the man who questioned her instead of supporting her, and anger for myself for even being a man. My mother struggled through the years, going in and out of hospitals after failed attempts at ending her pain. She felt that was her solution for her isolation, even though I reminded daily how loved she was. Rape is much more than just a single moment in time, or an isolated event. The pain from sexual assault can last a lifetime, and it can be intensified every time the victim is questioned with doubtful assumptions. Our culture now has an automated response that is condemning, painful, and void of all compassion. Has it always been this way, and more importantly, how do we go about changing society as a whole, eliminating the vile act of victim shaming?
When Ellie came to me with this idea to get tattooed, I was immediately interested because of how important her idea was to me, and had been for years. Her viewpoint and words on the subject of rape and victim shaming changed my life, and I think will do the same for you. I am so lucky to work with the people I do, and I am so grateful when they challenge my thoughts and open my mind to see the need for change. Without further ado, click here to hear Ellie Huffman, telling her thoughts on the tattoo we made on her.