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

Sujeesh, Inkfected Tattoo Studio artist in Kochi, Kerala named in Me Too Image for representation. Mbg
news Me Too Thursday, March 03, 2022 - 16:16

A post shared on Reddit around two days ago has now opened a can of worms about a well-known tattoo artist in Kochi, Kerala. Sujeesh PS, the man who runs the tattoo studio Inkfected, has been named by multiple women for allegedly sexually abusing them, with many predatory patterns emerging across accounts. The Reddit post, which is believed to be what 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 whether she has had sex, her relationships and so on. Her post says he then continued touching her inappropriately, all the while having the tattooing needle on her back, before he allegedly raped her.

The post was shared on Instagram and set off a domino effect. Another Instagram user shared their own account of sexual harassment allegedly by Sujeesh. Recounting an incident from two years ago, the individual said that they were 20 years old when they went to Inkfected. “I was asked to remove my bra and wasn’t given any piece of cloth to cover my body. I was unsure if this was okay,” they wrote in the post, adding later, their chest was groped. “Two years later, as I write this today, I feel and understand that I was sexually violated and molested by Sujeesh,” they added.

Speaking to TNM, this user, Maya*, says that after sharing their story on Instagram, they have received 20-30 messages from other young women who claim to have had similar experiences with Sujeesh. “Initially, after my own experience, I was in denial. I had also just gotten a big tattoo, and I didn’t want the memory of that to be associated with the sexual assault. Later, when I realised I had been groped, I decided to confront Sujeesh. I asked him how he could expect someone to be naked for the entire duration of getting the tattoo without any intimation and without any cloth or covering for their body. I also told him I was uncomfortable and he should not repeat this with others. He said “sorry.” I left it at that for then,” Maya tells TNM.

Maya was compelled to speak out publicly on Instagram after they read the Reddit post. “When Sujeesh molested me in 2020, I had gone with a friend, in whom I confided about the incident. When he sent me this Reddit post, it triggered me and I was really disturbed. That’s when I decided to speak up publicly,” they say.

Among the women who have reached out to Maya with their own experiences of sexual abuse with Sujeesh is Sreeja*, a 28-year-old photographer. In March 2018, she got two tattoos from him, one on her hip and one below her collarbone. When he was tattooing the second one, Sreeja recounts that Sujeesh allegedly asked her to remove her top. However, after she refused, he told her to lower her garment a bit. “I was covering 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 moving my hand to his crotch. Then, before finishing up, he lowered my top and groped my breasts. I was too shocked and numb to react. I felt frozen,” Sreeja tells TNM.

Another survivor, 24-year-old Ambika*, revealed her own traumatising experience from around Onam last year. What is striking among these accounts and so many others on social media are the similarities. Ambika too told TNM that for a tattoo that was below her collarbone, Sujeesh allegedly asked her to remove her t-shirt so that “the ink won’t spread”.

“He started doing a motion that was pulling down my bra. When I tried to block it, he said he cannot wipe fully if I don't remove my hands. He removed the bra completely from one breast on the pretext of cleaning. I felt it was not right, but I was not sure as I was getting a tattoo for the first time,” Ambika says. During the tattooing, he asked her questions about her personal life and sex, much like he had allegedly done with the 18-year-old Reddit user.

Ambika also recounts that after doing a navel piercing, Sujeesh again on the pretext of cleaning, allegedly started moving his hand downward, and even into her undergarment. “I realised this is not right and told him to stop the cleaning. Later, he told me that he will not charge for one of the tattoos,” she shares.

Some of the other women also mentioned that Sujeesh gave them a “discount” on the bill after the tattoo was done, 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 for lunch. He then took me to a private room. I’m short so my hand did not reach up to the chair so he kept my hands on his lap. I had no other choice. Then he started pulling my hand to his private parts. Later he took my hand using his unoccupied hand and was rubbing his crotch [with it] throughout the process. I was confused whether I was reading 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 tells TNM.

There are several other accounts on social media, including people who have posted videos of their experiences. An Instagram user recounted how during the process of tattooing Sujeesh allegedly “pulled her top upward” and molested her.

The predatory patterns

While TNM tried contacting Sujeesh on social media and on his phone since Wednesday, March 2, he has not responded. He has not addressed the allegations on social media as well, where his Instagram account has over 52,000 followers.

Other than the accounts of sexual assault, several patterns can be traced across the allegations that have come out against Sujeesh in the last couple of days.

1. He reportedly asks the young women inappropriate questions, such as about their personal relationships, sexual life and so on.

2. Sujeesh allegedly gives a “discount” to the women whom he sexually assaults, knocking off a few hundred rupees after the tattoo is done.

3. He allegedly does not let the women’s friends accompany them inside the room where he works on the tattoos. It is the only room inside the studio which does not have cameras, and which, according to some women, Sujeesh locks.

Many women TNM spoke to as well as the stories shared on social media reveal that the survivors were afraid to speak up for multiple reasons. Firstly, many of them were new to tattoos and did not know if this was “normal”. Secondly, they were afraid of speaking up against a person who has a substantial following on social media. And thirdly, because they thought they were the only ones to whom this had happened.

“Sexual abuse is a really traumatic experience. Especially in this case, it has left a mark on our bodies. For a long time, I felt disgusted and helpless when I looked at the tattoo. I feared judgment too – I was worried people would blame me – why did you go to a male tattoo artist? Why did you get a tattoo in the first place? All those stereotypes are there…” Sreeja says. “Whereas now I’m more mentally prepared to speak up, I’m stronger and more mature too.”

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

*Names changed 

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

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