LANSING, Mich. — Fish Ladder Tattoo Company cut ties with star tattoo artist Cameron Pohl earlier this year after sexual misconduct allegations surfaced on social media.
Pohl was a contestant on season 12 of the reality show "Ink Master." He's also one of the region's most sought-after artists.
The move came after a group called the Detroit Solidarity Movement shared social media posts accusing him of making unwanted passes, asking for sexual favors, body shaming and making inappropriate jokes.
The activist group has been working to spread the word about people they consider harmful, ranging from photographers to tattoo artists.
Fish Ladder declined to sit down for an interview, but in an Instagram post on June 16, the company said "In the best interest of all parties involved, Fish Ladder Tattoo Company and Cameron Pohl have parted ways."
Two days later they made another post issuing an apology to their clients, saying they were embarrassed and ashamed to have facilitated Pohl's behavior.
Pohl says he doesn't think Fish Ladder did the right thing.
He also says people aren't getting the entire story and that lot of what was said was taken out of context.
The allegations come from "basically a lot of ex-girlfriends and a lot of people that I was romantic with in the past," he said, "and it's like, how many people have had their feelings hurt. And it's like that, that does happen. I'm not saying that they're not entitled to feel how they do, but rather than work through feelings maturely and openly and have an open discussion with someone, they choose to hold on to this rage and this anger inside. And essentially, you know, let it all out in the most destructive way possible."
He says he's taken the situation into his own hands and apologized to people about how he behaved in the past.
"I have no problem admitting that. My personality can certainly be very abrasive. It can be a lot to deal with for a lot of people, and I've always been told that I have a very polarizing personality, but that's just been me as a person," Pohl said. "It's like, I am genuinely sorry if I made a joke or remark in a way that you didn't approve of, but if nothing is said to me in that moment, who's to say I can even take care of it."
And when it comes to accusations of him causing physical harm Pohl says they're untrue.
"That's insane to me that someone would accuse me of something like that, especially, like I said, in the professional work environment," he said, "and if there was ever anything that I did outside, and that would be in the hands of the law. And it's like, clearly, I don't behave in that way, I don't conduct myself in that way."
This situation isn't just happening at Fish Ladder Tattoo Company.
Over in downtown Lansing, Eclectic Art Tattoo Gallery cut ties with tattoo artist Levi Hatch.
They declined to sit down for an interview but also posted on social media, saying they made the move after they became aware of allegations and misconduct against Hatch.
They also apologized to anyone who had experienced discomfort.
Hatch declined to talk about the situation.
FOX 47 also reached out to organizations working with survivors but they advised us that most of the survivors who have spoken out have been advised not to give any more public statements for legal reasons.
"We believe these stories are coming out now because survivors feel safe. And they feel like there's a platform for them to be heard. And that people will believe them," said Alecxis Dumond, director of healing at Survivor Strong.
Survivor Strong is a non-profit organization that got involved once they recognized that there was a need for healing services for survivors impacted by gender-based violence in the Lansing body art community.
They got in contact with the Detroit Solidarity Movement around the end of June. They say Fish Ladder reached out to them shortly afterward, seeking ways to practice accountability and to do better in the future.
"So we've been working with them since around then on some shop policy, as well as having representatives from the organization present for these fundraisers. We want anyone that wants to come and support this fund to be able to go there, even if they maybe have some sort of negative association with going to tattoo shops," said Maddy Corbin, director of social media and communications at Survivor Strong.
The organization also created the Lansing Body Art Fund, which helps to pay for services such as therapist-facilitated healing circles and one-on-one cognitive-behavioral therapy for survivors.
"The purposes of the fund and what the fund will cover was directly dictated by the stories and needs that were being expressed and shared on social media, and the fund looks the way it does today, to directly address those needs from the survivors themselves," said Morgan McCaul, director of advocacy at Survivor Strong.
It also covers tattoo removal and cover-up for survivors who are looking for that.
"Tattoos are a very, very permanent thing. So it is something that you have on your body forever. And you don't necessarily want a reminder of someone that harmed you or someone that harmed other people around you. So we thought that providing funding for tattoo removal and cover-up and giving that option as well would be a really beneficial service," Corbin said.
So far, they've received money from Fish Ladder's walk-in Wednesday and book auction, Eclectic Art Tattoo Gallery's walk-in fundraiser, and Anaheim-based artist Lex Kenney's Flash Tattoo Fundraiser.
"I think if they're reaching out, that's the best first step because they're realizing there's a problem, or that something needs to be addressed. And they're making an effort to be better and to be better for their clients," Dumond said.
And as for the industry as a whole, they believe it's a move in the right direction.
"There's definitely a movement towards creating a safer and more trauma-informed, more aware I practices into shops. So definitely like just making sure that everyone is comfortable making sure that they're practicing ongoing consent throughout the process," Corbin said.
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