Brisbane tattoo artist Whitney Develle is doing a beautiful thing.
For the rest of the year, she’s setting aside one or two days every week to tattoo over people’s self-harm scars, at no cost to them. She made the offer in a Facebook post earlier this week.
“I want you to be able to look down at the scars that bring you pain, embarrassment, shame, and be able to put those feelings behind you and instead feel proud of the body part that now contains art and offers a new beginning,” she wrote.
Develle tells The Motherish that she’d tattooed maybe one or two people with scars on their forearms, but she didn’t put much thought into it until a friend mentioned how much shame her scars were causing her.
“She had suffered from depression when she was younger, whilst also struggling with an eating disorder, and had cut ‘don’t eat’ into her arm, amongst other things,” Develle explains. “She was so embarrassed. She told me how much pain it brought her when people would question her about them or make comments.
“I thought to myself, ‘I can help her. I will help her.'”
Develle says tattooing her friend changed her life.
"She felt beautiful again. She would message me and tell me how overly happy she was, how she could wear clothes that showed off her new tattoo, rather than the clothes that once concealed her scars. People were asking her about her tattoo. The scars became irrelevant, a thing of the past."
Develle then got the idea to help people on a larger scale. She decided to put up a post on Facebook, offering a free tattoo cover-up for anyone who was an ex-self harmer or a victim of abuse.
"I wanted physically the worst cases, people that deserved a fresh start, men and women who never knew that this was even an option and that I knew wouldn't take it for granted."
She thought she might receive 50 emails, but after less than two days, she had 400.
"It has been so overwhelming that this many people are reaching out to me," she says.
"So many of them are mothers or fathers that have children and struggle with money, or are 18 or 19 and can't work, because no workplace will take them seriously. I have people enquiring on behalf of their partner or a family member. I have parents emailing on behalf of their child, begging me to help."
Develle has now filled all the days she had set aside for free tattoos. But because she's had so many enquiries, she's going to set aside more days to tattoo other people with scars at discounted rates.
She's hoping to bring them happiness, and in return, feel happy herself.
"They are going to change my life and bring light back into it. I just can't wait to get started."