By BRIAN HARRISON, Associated Press Phoenix has a reputation as a place for escorts and sex workers to be and the escorts there are getting a tattoo.
But that reputation has been in question recently as a spate of women say they were sexually assaulted, some at the hands of the men who work for the tattoo artists.
Phoenix tattoo artist Jodi Smith says she’s seeing an uptick in complaints about men who don’t have a license to work in the city and say they want to be licensed.
(AP Photo/Michael Zamora) Smith says the problem is becoming so bad that she’s started creating a website called Escorts Phoenix to help victims and their lawyers.
It says it’s working to get men and women licensed and to put an end to the sexual assault.
Smith says the issue is getting worse, with more women coming forward to report sexual assault and abuse, with many more victims afraid to come forward.
“They’re not comfortable coming forward and being out in public because they’re afraid of repercussions,” Smith said.
“They’re afraid to be seen and be known.
And we’ve seen that a lot.”
Smith said some men in the industry are refusing to work with her because they think it’s a distraction.
In the past year, Smith has seen more complaints from women who say they’ve been sexually assaulted by men who aren’t licensed.
But in a few weeks, Smith says it has gone from being a handful of people who were working at tattoo parlors and strip clubs to thousands of complaints.
Her website says the majority of women who have come forward with sexual assault complaints are women who are 16 to 35 years old.
Some have come from Arizona, but the state doesn’t have any laws requiring licensed tattoo artists to be in the state.
Smith says there are other reasons why some of the women she’s spoken to don’t want to come out publicly.
She says some have been told by their employers to keep quiet because of the negative publicity they would get.
One woman told Smith that she was fired for coming forward because she didn’t want her husband to be called a rapist.
There are also many stories about people who don,t want to go public, because they feel like they don’t belong.
Phoenix police have also started investigating the men involved in the sexual assaults, but haven’t made any arrests, said Sgt. Michael Mancuso.
Mancusoso says the officers have been trying to find witnesses to the crimes and to see what led to the assaults.
But he says the victims don’t know how long it will take.
Mancoso said some victims want to keep the names of their attackers private so they can tell their stories to their own children.
This story was produced by The Associated Press by The Phoenix News Group and The Associated American Press.