Dez is no stranger to gender-based violence. In fact, she hates it so much that she wants to see it destroyed. Numerous amounts of women who survive sexual violence suffer from low self-worth, negative self-image, and lack of confidence as a result of the abuse they endured, and as the founder of Tattooed Women Are Beautiful, Dez is doing her part to empower those women. Tattooed Women Are Beautiful is an alternative beauty group comprised of survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. Providing resources to people who need it, they also support victims through their fundraising efforts; most noticeably in the form of their annual calendar sales. In 2016, New Mexico ranked 6th in the United States for cases of domestic violence/ male-to-female homicides, and one year later, in 2018, New Mexico ranked 7th in the nation for its rate of forcible rapes. Due to the pervasive nature of gender-based violence in the state, Tattooed Women Are Beautiful's calendar is meant to help women reclaim both their sexuality and their comfort in their bodies. Taking inspiration from pin-up, rockabilly, and goth culture, survivors are given their own photo shoots and a month on the calendar to call their own. They get to flaunt their tattoos and present themselves unapologetically. The sales from the calendar are then donated to local nonprofit organizations that directly service victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, such as the Domestic Violence Resource Center, and this year Albuquerque SANE was lucky enough to be chosen as the beneficiary. We sat down with Dez to hear about her organization and her own story of surviving gender-based violence. Read below:
Thanks for letting me interview you, Dez. I'm curious. How did you get involved in this position? The calendar?
We had done the calendar before, and did it in honor of my friend Kirsten who was murdered by her ex boyfriend. We originally donated money to the DVRC [Domestic Violence Resource Center] because they had helped with her funeral, so for the second calendar I was wondering who would benefit this time around. My friend Sadie mentioned Albuquerque sane, and I had never heard of the organization. After doing some research, I made up my mind right then and there.
It sounds like you feel very passionately about this field.
I had a rough marriage that changed me in many ways and shattered my self-esteem. So it’s not like it’s a foreign thing.
Wow. Thank you for sharing that.
Well I’m in a place I can share that now.
Tell us a little bit about the Divine Eye.
The Divine Eye is a tattoo shop and we’re open for business, taking appointments, and we’re open from Tuesday through Saturday from 12pm to 8pm, so it’s best just to call. The Divine Eye is just one of our sponsors, along with Evolution [Body Piercing] and Ascension [Body Modification]. I’m the owner of Tattooed Women Are Beautiful, and I wanted to do something to honor my friend Kirsten, so I just decided, what sells?
Naked ladies on calendars, haha. And so we built the first calendar with solely survivors, who have been through traumatic experiences or another, and are okay with doing this sort of thing, and then it just grew from there. This’ll be, gosh, almost six years going?
Are you a tattoo artist also?
I’m just an artist. I work in mixed media, digital art, and all kinds of stuff. Tattooed Women Are Beautiful has its own website, tattooedwomenarebeautiful.com, and that has a resource page that has a shit ton of resources [for victims]. I’d like to add more.
Okay, last question so I stop grilling you on the spot haha.
You mentioned earlier that you’re also a survivor yourself [of domestic violence and sexual assault]. Before we let you go, do you have any words of advice or any other kind of information for other survivors? Maybe even regarding your own journey up to this point?
Don’t stay quiet. Tell your friends and family about it. I know it’s a hard situation to get out of, and I completely understand that it’s even harder when kids are involved too. But I think the number one thing is just to not stay quiet about what’s happening to you. Other people need to know. Personally, I didn’t tell anyone about my own experiences for a long time, but if I had, maybe something would’ve been different.
But you’re here now, sharing your story with us, and that’s what’s most important.
Thank you so much for being here, Dez. Thanks for being amazing.