#MeToo: Kochi tattoo artist accused of groping, sexually assaulting multiple women

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Several accounts on social media reveal harrowing details – with similar alarming patterns – of being harassed and sexually assaulted by Sujeesh who runs Inkfected, a tattoo studio in Kochi.

A post shared on Reddit about two days ago has now opened a Pandora’s box about a well-known tattoo artist in Kochi, Kerala. Sujeesh PS, the man who runs tattoo studio Inkfected, has been named by several women for allegedly sexually abusing them, with many predatory patterns emerging across the accounts. The Reddit post that is said to have started it all is written by an 18-year-old who talks about going to Sujeesh about a week ago to get a tattoo on her lower back. The survivor accused Sujeesh of asking inappropriate questions such as if she had sex, her relationships, etc. Her message says he then proceeded to touch her inappropriately, while having the tattoo needle on his back, before raping her.

The post was shared on Instagram and triggered a domino effect. Another Instagram user shared his own sexual harassment account allegedly by Sujeesh. Recounting an incident from two years ago, the individual said he was 20 when he went to Inkfected. “I was asked to take off my bra and I was not given any piece of cloth to cover my body. I didn’t know if everything was okay,” they wrote in the post, later adding that their chests had been groped. “Two years later, as I write this today, I feel and understand that I was raped and sexually assaulted by Sujeesh,” they added.

Speaking to TNM, this user, Maya*, said that after sharing her story on Instagram, she received 20-30 messages from other young women who claimed to have had similar experiences with Sujeesh. “Initially, after my own experience, I was in denial. I had also just had a big tattoo done and I didn’t want that memory to be associated with the sexual assault. Later, when I realized that I had been groped, I decided to confront Sujeesh. I asked him how he could expect someone to be naked for the duration of the tattoo with no guidance and no cloth or covering for their body. I also told him that I was uncomfortable and that he should not repeat this with others. He said “sorry”. I left it there for now,” Maya told TNM.

Maya was forced to speak out publicly on Instagram after reading the Reddit post. “When Sujeesh assaulted me in 2020, I was away with a friend, who I confided in about the incident. When he sent me this Reddit post, it triggered me and I was really disturbed It was then that I decided to speak publicly,” they recount.

Among the women who have contacted Maya with their own experiences of sexual abuse with Sujeesh is Sreeja*, a 28-year-old photographer. In March 2018, she received two tattoos from him, one on her hip and one under her collarbone. When he was tattooing the second, Sreeja recounts that Sujeesh would have asked him to take off his top. However, after she refused, he told her to lower her garment a little. “I covered my breasts with one arm. After a while he told me to keep my hand on his knee to be comfortable. But slowly he started to move my hand to his crotch. Then, before he finished, he pulled my top down and fondled my breasts. I was too shocked and numb to react. I felt frozen,” Sreeja told TNM.

Another survivor, Ambika*, 24, revealed her own traumatic experience around Onam last year. What is striking among these accounts and so many others on social networks are the similarities. Ambika also told TNM that for a tattoo under his collarbone, Sujeesh would have asked him to remove his t-shirt so “the ink doesn’t spread.”

“He started making a move that was pulling my bra down. When I tried to block it, it said it couldn’t completely wipe off if I didn’t remove my hands. He completely removed the bra from one breast under the guise of cleaning. I felt it was wrong, but I wasn’t sure because I was getting a tattoo for the first time,” says Ambika. During the tattoo, he asked her questions about her personal life and gender, much like he would have with the 18-year-old Reddit user.

Ambika also recounts that after getting a navel piercing, Sujeesh again under the guise of cleaning, allegedly started moving his hand down, and even into his underwear. “I realized it was wrong and told him to stop cleaning. Later he told me he wouldn’t charge for any of the tattoos,” he shares. she.

Some of the other women also mentioned that Sujeesh gave them a ‘discount’ on the bill after the tattoo, including 20-year-old Maria*. “I was getting a tattoo for the first time; it was on my forearm. There were two other artists, Sujeesh asked them to go to lunch. He then took me to a private room. I’m short so my hand didn’t reach the chair so he kept my hands in his lap. I had no other choice. Then he started pulling my hand towards his private parts. Later he took my hand using his idle hand and rubbed his crotch [with it] throughout the process. I was confused if I read too much into it and didn’t want to accept what was happening. When I was leaving, he also gave me a discount of Rs 500,” she told TNM.

There are several other social media accounts, including people who have posted videos of their experiences. An Instagram user shared how, during the tattoo process, Sujeesh allegedly “pulled her top up” and assaulted her.

Predatory models

While TNM has attempted to contact Sujeesh on social media and on his phone since Wednesday March 2, he has not responded. He also did not address the allegations on social media, where his Instagram account has more than 52,000 followers.

Besides the accounts of sexual assault, several patterns can be traced in the allegations that have been leveled against Sujeesh over the past two days.

1. He allegedly asked young women inappropriate questions, such as about their personal relationships, sex life, etc.

2. Sujeesh reportedly gave the women he sexually assaulted a ‘discount’, knocking off a few hundred rupees after the tattoo was done.

3. He wouldn’t let women’s friends accompany them inside the room where he works on tattoos. It’s the only room inside the studio that doesn’t have cameras and which some women say Sujeesh locks.

Many of the women TNM spoke to as well as the stories shared on social media reveal that survivors were afraid to speak out for multiple reasons. First of all, many of them were new to tattooing and didn’t know if it was “normal”. Second, they were afraid to speak out against someone with a large following on social media. And third, because they thought they were the only ones this had happened to.

“Sexual abuse is a truly traumatic experience. Especially in this case, it left a mark on our body. For a long time I felt disgusted and helpless over the tattoo. I was also afraid of judgment – I was afraid people would blame me – why did you go to a male tattoo artist? Why did you get a tattoo in the first place? All these stereotypes are there…”, says Sreeja. “While now I’m more mentally prepared to speak, I’m also stronger and more mature.”

The women TNM spoke to are also considering taking legal action against Sujeesh. TNM will update this story if Sujeesh responds with a comment or statement.

*Names changed

Note: TNM has obtained permission from individual users to use their social media posts in the story.

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