Getting a tattoo can be one of the most intimate things you can do. “You are allowing this person access to your body, you are allowing them to inflict pain on your body, and you are allowing them to put a lasting mark on you,” said Alexia Horozian, who has been getting tattoos since she was 19. Tattooing takes a lot of trust. But many say that trust has been violated. “A tattoo artist has a lot of power, and they’re exploiting that power,” said Carissa Ropponen with the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre. A new Instagram account Times Up in Canadian Tattooing is calling out predatory Canadian tattoo artists by publishing anonymous allegations of sexual assault. Since the account launched Saturday more than 20 stories of assault have been shared from across the country. “I don’t think people have been comfortable to come forward for a really long time, and it’s allowing these people a safe place to talk about what happened to them,” said Horozian, who says while she’s never been sexually assaulted in a tattoo parlour, but has had her fair share of ‘uncomfortable’ experiences. The many online allegations have prompted at least one accused artist to stop tattooing and several shops to fire employees, including parlours on Vancouver Island. Painted Lotus artist Corey Lyon and Dave Hadden of Carne Tattoo have both been fired after sexual assault allegations against them were made on the Instagram account.
One of Hadden’s alleged victims, whose identity CHEK is protecting, said she’d been sexually assaulted by Hadden during an appointment back in March of 2019 She says she notified police but decided not to press charges, as she worked with the tattoo shop to find a resolution. At the time, Carne Tattoo which employed Hadden, says they thought it was an isolated incident. “It is now clear that this employee’s actions were not a one-off, but rather a piece of a disturbing pattern. In retrospect, we should have terminated this employee immediately as this disgusting behaviour has no home in our industry or our shop,” said Carne Tattoo in a statement. But the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre says sexual assault shouldn’t be let to slide. “It’s really a community problem, and we need to be working on sexual assault as a community,” said Carissa Ropponen. “It’s also your responsibility to say something, to create a culture and an environment where sexual violence isn’t tolerated and it shouldn’t have to be the survivor’s burden to bear to bring these things forward and to create change.” Hadden has admitted to the inappropriate touching, expressing his remorse on his since-deleted Instagram account. And Victoria Police believe there may be more victims, of Hadden’s or otherwise, that they haven’t heard from. “You will be listened to, you will be treated with respect, and you will be believed,” said Victoria Police in a statement to CHEK News, encouraging more victims to come forward. Meanwhile, Horozian, who has spent countless hours being tattooed by Hadden over a 5-year span, while never sexually assaulted, says things need to change. “Body art should be safe. It should be a safe place to go to,” said Horozian. “I can’t imagine those who did have that experience with him, and now they have to live with his mark on them forever.” The Victoria Sexual Assault Centre offers counselling and other supports including victims who may want to report their sexual assaults to police. They can be reached at 250-383-3232. Anyone wishing to speak with a Victoria Police detective can call the non-emergency line at 250-995-7654 ext. 1 for the report desk. Police said an officer will take a complainant’s contact information and arrange for a detective follow up within a week or two. None of the allegations have been proven in court.