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Tattoo Artist Helps Girls Escape Life in the Sex Trade

A Chicago-area tattoo artist and youth pastor helps people find new lives by inking over their tattoos. Sponsored by Grape-Nuts.

About this sponsorship: In honor of the 60th anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary’s historic ascent of Mount Everest, Patch and Grape-Nuts are teaming up to highlight those who inspire people around them to climb their own mountains.

Walk into Chris Baker's tattoo shop, and you’re greeted by a huge biker-looking dude covered in 140 hours’ worth of ink.

Baker’s shop, the first tattoo studio in Oswego, is the cleanest tattoo place you will ever see. A guitar signed by former Korn guitarist Brian “Head” Welch hangs on the wall, a reminder of a turning point in Baker's life.

"His book Save Me From Myself turned my life around," says Chris Baker, a 42-year-old tattoo artist, youth pastor and father of three.  

Baker now helps save others by removing gangland and sex-trafficking tattoos. In the last year, he has removed or inked over 508 unwanted tattoos, half of them on girls and young women escaping the sex trade in Chicago and the suburbs. He does the work through his non-profit, INK 180 Ministry, funded largely out of his own pocket, often at the invitation of police and FBI agents.

"Some of the Chicago politicians keep this quiet because they don’t want the tourism to go down," he says, showing photos of UPC code-like tattoos on the necks of young women. "Pimps make the girls get them so they can be identified. If a girl escapes and goes to another city, if another pimp finds her number, she can be killed. It’s all underground.

"I began covering human-trafficking tattoos about nine months ago … to help the victims of this heinous crime."

Baker gets quiet as he shows photos of the code tattoos. 

"Most of these girls are between the ages of 11 and 17."

Q. What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing? 

A. The biggest challenge I face is funding. I hate doing fundraisers and asking for donations. We’re a 501c3 non-profit organization. I’m much more focused on covering the negative tattoos and helping people get started in their new lives. 

Q. What inspired you to take on this challenge?

A. I was trying to teach my youth group kids about serving God. I told them to pray about how they could use their gifts from God to help others. I started doing that as well. The answer I got back was: Do what you love to do more than anything else, and will you do it for free? I started doing free tattoo cover-ups and INK 180 was born.

Q. Have you succeeded?

A. God has succeeded. He changed me and has asked me to help others do the same. Every day is a new adventure, and I love every second of it. I am happier than I’ve ever been, and I’m a renewed person. It has also improved my family life. I work hard every day to be the best person I can be, and try to live my life according to God’s plan.

Read about Chris Baker's life in an original story on Oswego Patch. Learn more about INK 180 on its website. If you know of a former gang member wanting to remove a tattoo (teardrops are called "jobstopper tattoos") or a woman who wants to rid herself of a sex trafficking tattoo, contact Chris Baker directly via email. There will be no charge for this service.

This post is published throughout the Chicago-area Patch network.

Kathleen May 05, 2013 at 08:27 PM
Katiecakes, no apology needed, for butting in. As you can see, I have no problem butting in. :o) I do websites and online advertising. And I have done some fundraising for our local pet rescue. Near the top another commentor, BN asked Chris where they could make a donation and Chris said, there was a paypal link “half way down the page” and that was my trigger. If you are given a web address and you still have to ask how, something is wrong. Thanks for the props. I am glad my frankness was taken in the manner in which it was intended. People DO want to help. BN proved that right here, but not everyone will take the time to ask. Blessings, to you and yours :o)
Joe LaBarre May 06, 2013 at 07:28 PM
Being in the same business as Kathleen I can agree with her and Katiecakes that the advice she gave is solid and earnest. No company plug or offer to revise the site for you,(As is a common tactic in comments forums) just professional advice offered no doubt, by the inspiration that many of us feel when reading your story. Keep on keeping on both of you.
Kathleen May 06, 2013 at 08:41 PM
Thanks Joe, you made my day :o)
Katiecakes Hayes May 07, 2013 at 12:56 PM
Sandy I was just thinking the same thing! Joe and Kathleen thank you I find this almost bizarre how cool most of the comments on here have been positive and constructive and for the right reasons not to make money or take pot shots at each other. Great crowd of people you all are. I wish you all the very best in life :)
Dee Deedra May 12, 2013 at 11:52 AM
Wow! How God's work through anything n everything!!! I pray for U n ask All Mighty 2 open bigger doors for ur ministry! We need u! GBU!!!! Keep ur Hope n Help 2 others ALIVE by d name of GOD!

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