When Healing Happens in the Middle



Part of a survivor’s journey can be to take back a victory that was stolen from them.

Survivors of sexual and domestic violence, hate crimes, or adult survivors of child abuse can do this via #VictoryTattoo.

Kick at Darkness is  proud to walk alongside survivors in this piece of their healing.

In getting the tattoo, the survivor can: 

  • RECLAIM the day they were traumatized
  • REDISCOVER their healing by covering tattoos or scars reminding them of their trauma
  • REIGNITE their healing journey with a symbol of their strength that gives them the courage to continue fighting


One of Kick at Darkness’ badass community partners, Cerny at Golden Rule Tattoo, volunteers his time to help survivors reclaim these victories. He has done amazing work on so many survivors who are now reclaiming their lives.

Hear the words from one of those changed lives sharing her story:



It was a chilly spring day in Phoenix, Arizona. I was meeting my childhood best friend who now is the president and founder of a group that helps provide healing and support for domestic violence and rape survivors. I was there to receive my #VictoryTattoo to celebrate healing. Release. But boy am I far from healed. Am I a sham? Full of wishful thinking? “Put it out into the universe and it will be so” I’ve heard positive people say. So is that what I’m doing? Grinding ink into flesh to conjure up healing that isn’t yet mine but one day could be?


How did I get here? The last time I saw my friend we were teens. Carefree and innocent. While we were in youth group acting out dramatic scenes in the old church gym and playing pranks on others working at the Christian camp, I was living with the nightmare of physical and emotional child abuse. My dad was an addict and abuser and my mom was severely codependent.

We had sleepovers at her house. I ate at her family’s table and we went on road trips together. Her dad made me practice my shitty French freshman year when we traveled to Canada.

We never talked about the abuse.

When my dad was gone, at least he didn’t hit us and yell and throw furniture across the room at us. Or pull doors off hinges when we locked ourselves in a bedroom to call the police because he was strangling my mom. Again. But when he was gone, it usually meant we had little to no money. Mom worried about paying bills and feeding us. I could see her worry. See her fear. But then all of a sudden, Dad would be back. She’d let him back. Did they even talk? Or did he just come back and she just let him because some money is better than none. And he says he was sorry. Or maybe he didn’t have to. His sad face always looked sorry when he was trying to come back home.

He would just come right back and smack Mom’s ass as she got dinner ready. But not in a romantic “I’m so in love with you” way. More like a smug “gotcha right where I want you” way.

But still, nobody talked.

Our friendship was pure, real, true and beautiful. But we didn’t share the dark stuff. I wanted to hide it deep where nobody could see it. It was mine to keep and mine to bear.

My home was out of control. Constantly. The things that set Dad off were different every time, but no less traumatic. Cabinet doors left open. Siblings fighting. Red traffic lights.

Red. Traffic. Lights.

If I could control what people knew and how they saw me, it gave me power. I developed OCD tendencies to cope with my out-of-control life. It felt good to have order in the chaos. Protecting what is mine inside and out. I am fierce. At loving, at hiding, and at becoming so small that I am not noticed. We all laughed at my color-coded clothes and my perfectly placed treasured items on my shelf. Not one thing out of place in my tiny space in the world. I’d look into my room from outside my door. It was peaceful and quiet.

Welcome to the middle. Where we don’t rock boats and we hold our tongues. Don’t ask hard questions because you won’t get an answer anyway.

As I sat getting my tattoo, my friend tapped a distracting “tap tap tata tata tap” rhythm on my knee. We held hands, talked, laughed and she beamed at me as the colors of my tattoo came to life.

Tap. Tap. Tata tata. Tap.

My tattoo artist is an ally who donates his time and talent for survivors. My friend told me I could share my story with him. Or not. It was my choice.

Tap. Tap. Tata tata. Tap.

Where to start?

I felt myself rambling.

Do I talk about my dad? Or do I start with the part of the story that I feel responsible for? The part where I picked a man just like my dad when I was in my 20s?

Tap. Tap. Tata tata. Tap.

How I stayed with him for seven years? Kicked him out more times than I can count, but I kept letting him back. I thought I needed him. Or he needed me. This time will be different. Right?

How he had that same sorry sad face that my dad always did. And how he stopped even asking to come back. He just did, and I just let him.

Tap. Tap. Tata tata. Tap.

How about how now? Now that my life is safe, quiet, and predictable to the point of being mundane. Parenting young children and being married to a kind, stable husband. He says he won’t leave. I have such crippling anxiety and PTSD I sometimes feel more screwed up now than when I was being abused. Should I talk about that?

Tap. Tap. Tata tata. Tap.

This is why I feel like a fraud. Why I’m not sure if victory really is mine and if my friend only knew she might not call it a #VictoryTattoo. Victory is at the finish line, isn’t it? Mine might be more of a participation trophy. “Thanks for playing!” I’m stuck in a perpetual intermission and the lights keep flickering but we never get to see the end. “Get up and go to your fucking seat to watch the end!” I want to scream in my own face. But the end isn’t coming. The fight is never done. Flicker.

Tap. Tap. Tata tata. Tap. 

My friend asked me, “If we waited until we were totally healed to share our stories, what would we say?”

“Hmm.” I say. “Well, we would be dead. We won’t be healed ’till we meet (our Creator).”

Her beautiful brown eyes smile with knowing.

Tap. Tap. Tata tata. Tap. 

“Speak from the middle,” she says.

Tap. Tap. Tata tata. Tap. 

“What does that look like?” she asks.

Tap. Tap. Tata tata. Tap. 

It’s raw. And relevant. It’s messy. But true.

Tap. Tap. Tata tata. Tap. 

So here I am. Swiftly in the middle.

It’s where I first found my voice. Where I first found my freedom. It’s where I’m most valid.

My middle has failures, successes. Good days, bad days, and days where I’m so stagnant someone should poke me with a stick. But it’s mine. All beautifully and wonderfully wholly mine.

My battle cry is loudest here. I will yell, pray, meditate, heal, break, and fiercely live my life in the middle.



Do you know of a survivor who needs a cover-up tattoo for trauma-related scars or tattoos? Or does the survivor need a #VictoryTattoo to help them conquer their healing journey?

Apply today and our team will be in contact.



  • All participants must be 18 years of age or older
    • OR must have a judge’s order for the tattoo
  • All participants must also have a support network in place as the process will stir up deep emotions
    • Our team will connect the survivor with support networks in their area if needed
  • A KAD volunteer must be present at the time of tattooing
  • If a crisis counselor is needed during the tattoo, please let us know so we can request one

Emergency tattoos are available (for barcodes or gang/pimp-related tattoo coverups). Please fill out the application form and call us for immediate connection: (602) 753-7670 .

Do not call the tattoo shop directly, as this will hinder and elongate the process.



Start by sponsoring Warrior Kits! Each of our survivors receive a Kit to help them navigate the emotions brought on by PTSD. The Kit is filled with grounding and self-care items.

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