Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Degree Level



School of Social Work


April Rand

Committee Member

Ananda Rosa

Second Committee Member

Anna Piazza-North

Third Committee Member

Kate Chapman


Social sciences, Motivations, Sexual trauma, Tattoo


Tattoos adorn people from all over the world and date back as far as the Stone Age. Tattoos adorn people from all over the world and motivations for tattoo attainment have been studied recently. Still, there remains limited research on the potential therapeutic properties of tattoo attainment, particularly for survivors of sexual trauma. The purpose of this study was to investigate the experience of the tattoo process for survivors of sexual trauma and their motivations for tattoo attainment. This qualitative exploratory study interviewed both survivors of sexual trauma (N=10) and tattoo artists (N=7) to gain a wider perspective on the motivations for tattoo attainment among survivors of sexual trauma. Common themes of tattoo attainment emerged among trauma survivors, with the most prevalent being reclamation, catharsis, and tattoo acts as personal narrative. Among tattoo artists the common themes were that tattoos act as non-normative expression and have therapeutic qualities. Further research should include diversified populations and a larger sample size. Implications for Social work practice include utilizing tattoo for narrative exploration and rapport building.