I don’t blame Amber Heard for forgetting the makeup she put on her bruises. I have.


dr Mosley says it’s common for abuse survivors to feel embarrassed about their experiences. While working on a community-based study in Detroit of sex workers of all genders, Dr. Mosley witnessed how many attendees struggled to hide their wounds from the world by masking bruises with makeup, glasses, hats and clothing.

“[When Heard speaks about] I never want to go out in public with bruises I guess [it] speaks both to the internalized stigma of being a survivor of violence and to the victims’ deep feelings that they are personally responsible for bringing that violence upon themselves,” she says.

Something some of the trans women involved in the study told Dr. Mosley repeated, they are still haunted. “Almost all had survived intimate partner violence, and I particularly remember two women saying something like, ‘I knew I had become a woman when my male partner started hitting me,'” she says. “There’s something about our society that really connects being a woman with abuse, to the extent that trans women we interviewed who were survivors saw that as a fundamental criterion for being a woman in society.”

Before Katey Denno was a Los Angeles-based makeup artist, she spent a decade as a social worker in Virginia, the Bronx and Washington, DC. Part of her job was to cover up clients’ bruises with the only thing her shelter had on hand – child’s face paint.

“Most people felt embarrassed and embarrassed and disgusted that they wore this experience on their outside [body]’ Denno says. “People were ashamed [and would wonder things like] “Why do I let my children bear witness?”, “How come I didn’t see the warning signs?”, ” [and] ‘How come I’m still in love with this person?’”

There were times when clients didn’t want Denno to cover their bruises – sometimes leaving their wounds visible to convince doubting friends and family members that the abuse had actually taken place. Or maybe, like Heard, they went to court to prove their abuse, thinking it might trick the judge or jury into believing them.

“I’ve always wanted that [the abuse] hadn’t happened though [covering bruises] also solidified to me that makeup can be very effective,” adds Denno. “It gave me an opportunity to show someone that even in this moment, you have the ability to control your outward appearance with ease, and it will make you feel better about yourself in the moment.”

Covering my own bruises didn’t feel like an act of control. I was a person before the abuse, and I had changed when I felt the powder puff brush against my skin. But when I spent about an hour Googling “What shade corrects bruises” and tried to teach myself color theory, I had a flash of understanding: Life doesn’t have to be like this. My mind whispered this mantra until I finally had the courage to believe it.

I don’t think I would have made it to a higher level if I hadn’t experienced the demoralization of figuring out how to cover a bruise. I will never forget the shape of this compact and the soft feel of its cushion against my skin. I can still close my eyes and feel the plastic of the product in my hands. I’ve been trying to remember the brand name all week, but like Heard, I’m having a hard time remembering.

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