Editor’s note: Off the Map Tattoo was recently recognized in the Best of the Valley Readers Poll, which is awarded by readers. The Valley Advocate is not affiliated with the tattoo parlor.

Off the Map Tattoo is facing public criticism online over its continued relationship with a tattoo artist who allegedly sexually assaulted a client while tattooing her in 2014.

Off the Map tattoo, which has three locations, including one in Easthampton, published a Facebook post on Tuesday, May 1, that addressed a sexual assault that occurred at the shop in 2014. Dozens of patrons and former employees of Off the Map tattoo wrote in on Facebook with other allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace and mismanagement.

In their Facebook post, Off the Map wrote that guest artist Watsun Atkinsun “violated a client’s boundaries” at a guest spot at Off the Map four years ago. 

We apologize that it has taken us so long to address the recent incident regarding guest artist Watsun Atkinsun’s predatory behavior,” the post reads. “In light of the weight of the situation, it was important to take the time to gather all the members of our tattoo family in person to prevent misunderstanding or false narratives and to make sure we had all the facts so that we could speak as a unified team.”

Atkinsun did not immediately respond for a request for comment.

Despite this explanation, a former manager at the Easthampton shop, who wished to remain anonymous to protect her future in the industry, said that she believes that Off the Map attempted to cover up the incident because they continued to work with Atkinsun even after the assault was brought to the attention of the shop owner, Gabe Ripley, after it occurred in 2014.

The person who was violated in 2014 asked to remain anonymous, due to the personal nature of the incident, but confirmed that it occured at the Easthampton Off the Map shop and that Off the Map was contacted almost immediately after it happened.

“They kept it silent from all of their employees and they continued to work with the tattoo artist,” said the former manager. “They continue to use him as a platform to grow their business. They hosted him all over the world on live webisodes and used him to continue to rake in record profits while silencing the women that had been victimized.”

The former manager explained that this incident has been brought to light more recently because a tattoo shop owner in New York City was attacked by Atkinsun in her own shop and has video footage of the attack that she published in part on Instagram on April 20.

The former manager who worked at the Easthampton shop in 2016 said that the shop was, “a hostile environment for women.”

“Ultimately I left because I felt like the employees were being mistreated,” the former manager said.

She said that in her time there she had complaints from female employees about sexual harassment and that there was an ongoing issue with employees being misclassified by the business for tax reasons.

“They have had a history of misclassifying employees so that they don’t have to pay taxes on their staff,” the former manager said. “They continued to pay people illegally, misclassifying them as independent contractors to avoid paying taxes on them.”

Off the Map listed several changes that they have taken since 2014 in their Facebook post, including establishing cameras in the shops, distributing a sexual harassment policy, and establishing an “executive team to hear out and act on situations that arise in our shops.”

Meg Bantle can be reached at mbantle@valleyadvocate.com.