In A Flash

Louisiana looks to cover tattoo removal for human trafficking survivors

By: - November 15, 2022 8:22 pm

Louisiana may start covering more of the costs of tattoo removal for human trafficking survivors. (Photo from Canva)

Louisiana may soon cover the cost for people to remove tattoos forced upon them by sex traffickers.

The Louisiana Crime Victims Reparations Board is considering a regulation that would make it easier to provide public money for human trafficking survivors.

Bob Wertz, the board’s chief staff member, said the state can only award a victim money for tattooed brand removal out of its emergency fund under the current rules, and those emergency grants are restricted to $1,000 per person.

Wertz suggested an updated regulation Tuesday, one that would allow victims to apply for money on a non-emergency basis. It could also be used to cover more expensive tattoo removal procedures. 

The board gives out hundreds of grants to victims every year to help them pay for expenses resulting from crimes committed against them. The funds cover medical bills, counseling, relocation costs, lost wages, childcare and funerals. It is generally capped at $15,000 per individual.

Tattoos are used in the sex trade to show that a person belongs to particular sex trafficker, according to the Associated Press.

Wertz said he proposed the updated regulations because a human trafficking survivor has applied for help to remove a tattoo. The board may need more flexibility in order to help that person.

First Lady Donna Edwards has made human trafficking prevention one of her primary focuses. Earlier this year, she and Gov. John Bel Edwards launched the Human Trafficking Prevention Resource Center of Louisiana, which features the issue of victim branding prominently on its website

On the site, an anonymous human trafficking survivor told the story of getting her brand covered up with a new tattoo of a koi fish.

“No human should ever be treated as cattle, and therefore we need to shed light on tattoos because traffickers are using them to show ownership of their victims,” the anonymous victim said, according to a quote on the website.

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Julie O'Donoghue
Julie O'Donoghue

Julie O’Donoghue is a senior reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator and producer of the Louisiana Illuminator podcast. She’s received awards from the Virginia Press Association and Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press. Julie covered state government and politics for NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune for six years. She’s also covered government and politics in Missouri, Virginia and Washington D.C. Julie is a proud D.C. native and Washington Capitals hockey fan. She and her partner, Jed, live in Baton Rouge. She has two stepchildren, Quinn and Steven.

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