Harassment & Abuse

in the Piercing Industry


Harassment, as a legal term, is governed by local laws, which vary, but is generally defined as a course of conduct which annoys, threatens, intimidates, alarms, or puts a person in fear of their safety. Harassment is unwanted, unwelcome and uninvited behavior that demeans, bullies, threatens or offends and results in a hostile environment.

Harassing behavior may include, but is not limited to, epithets, derogatory comments or slurs and lewd propositions, assault, impeding or blocking movement, offensive touching or any physical interference with normal work or movement, and visual insults, such as derogatory posters or cartoons. When these behaviors become repetitive, they are defined as bullying and distinguish it from insult.

Harassment can be based on actual or perceived membership in any protected class: race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, or any other characteristic protected by law.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is defined as unwanted sexual advances, or visual, verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature. This definition includes many forms of offensive behavior and includes gender-based harassment of a person of the same sex as the harasser. The following is a partial list of sexual harassment examples:

  • Unwanted sexual advances
  • Offering benefits in exchange for sexual favors
  • Making or threatening reprisals after a negative response to sexual advances
  • Visual conduct that includes leering, making sexual gestures
  • Verbal conduct that includes making or using derogatory comments, epithets, slurs, or jokes
  • Verbal sexual advances or propositions
  • Verbal abuse of a sexual nature, graphic verbal commentaries about an individual's body, sexually degrading words used to describe an individual, or suggestive or obscene letters, notes, or invitations
  • Physical conduct that includes touching, assaulting, or impeding or blocking movements

Sexual Violence

The term "sexual violence" is an all-encompassing, non-legal term that refers to legally defined crimes like sexual assault, rape, and sexual abuse. Sexual violence is any sexual act or behavior perpetrated against someone's will when someone does not or cannot consent. Victims of sexual violence may know the perpetrator(s), such as a coworker, supervisor, friend, relative, acquaintance, peer, colleague, and/or may be involved in a dating or marital relationship with the perpetrator, or the perpetrator may be a stranger. There is an absence of consent whenever a perpetrator uses force, harassment, threat of force, threat of adverse personnel action or volunteer opportunity, coercion, or when the victim is asleep, incapacitated, or unconscious.


The commonly held definition of abuse is a pattern of behavior used by one person to gain and maintain power and control over another. This is identified by a pattern of behavior, in other words, not just one incident. These behaviors can take on a number of different forms including physical, sexual, verbal/emotional, mental/psychological, financial/economic and cultural/identity.

How do these play a role in the piercing industry?

Differences in power or status, whether perceived or real, are often at the root of harassment and abusive situations. In our studios and industry, we find that several differences in power and status exist.

Piercing professionals are in a position of power over a client during a piercing procedure. This dynamic involves the client being in a vulnerable position, the exchange of trust, and the need for the piercer to honor that trust with professionalism and respect.

There are also many examples of possible power dynamics within a studio, such as; between piercers and their apprentices, studio owners and their employees and/or contractors, management and those they manage, and piercers and management with their counter and support staff.

Evaluating your power dynamics that exist across situations can help you to understand what impact your behavior or words may have on another person.

What is the APP doing to address harassment and abuse?

What is the APP? 

Our Mission statement - The Association of Professional Piercers is a California-based, international non-profit organization dedicated to the dissemination of vital health and safety information about body piercing to piercers, health care professionals, legislators, and the general public.

The APP is governed by a voluntary elected Board of Directors bound to the organization's mission statement in accordance with its bylaws and California non-profit law. For more information about the organization, please visit What Is The APP?

What is the APP doing?

Unfortunately, no industry is immune to these issues. The APP recognizes its responsibility to uphold policies and procedures and provide industry-specific and outside resources pertinent to these topics.

The APP and its volunteers are committed to doing more for the piercing industry. Below are some of the active programs and growing policies in place. This type of work is never done, the APP Board of Directors is motivated to pursue new ways to improve.

  • Maintain relationships with anti-violence and harassment organizations, as well as outside professionals, for expert guidance.
  • Facilitate continued education and training for all APP volunteers and staff members.
  • Continue to bring outside professionals to provide education on these topics at our educational events and to provide on-site counseling.
  • Regularly review, update, and uphold Code of Conduct agreements and policies for members, events, attendees, vendors, staff, sponsors, and volunteers specifically to address abuse and harassment of all kinds.
  • Entrust an Oversight Committee that functions in an advisory capacity. The Board can rely on this committee to assist in the response of ethically questionable situations, if called upon. This committee also handles reports about Board Members and Officers.
  • Currently, the Board is coordinating with legal advisors to do a massive update to the organization’s Bylaws.
    Members, we will need your help voting on an update to these when the time comes!

APP Resources

APP's Suggested Apprenticeship Guideline and Curriculum — This document includes an Apprentice’s Bill of Rights and a Mentor Code of Ethics, intended to address, educate, and prevent apprentice harassment and hazing practices.

APP’s Picking Your

APP's A Piercee’s Bill of Rights

APP Conference Policies 

APP Member Code of Conduct

Filing a report with the APP

In this section, the APP hopes to provide information, dispel misconceptions, and give reasonable expectations regarding the filing process with the APP. 

In order for the APP to take action, we must receive reports through official channels and cannot take action based on posts made on social media platforms. Official channels include emails to the Secretary or Oversight Committee and completion of official report form(s). This protocol is also important for the Association's ability to document and record any reports.

The APP will maintain a record of the report. Keep in mind if you direct the organization to take no other action, it’s legally bound by this request. If you’ve changed your mind, you can submit another report with your new request for action.

What the APP can do

The scope is limited to the organization’s mission of disseminating health and safety information in regards to body piercing. The APP maintains jurisdiction over APP members, employees, volunteers, and events. 
The Association of Professional Piercers maintains the right to;
  • approve or decline new memberships
  • suspend or expel current members
  • refuse attendance at APP events
  • approve or decline sponsorships
  • suspend or terminate sponsorships

What the APP can NOT do

Some examples, but not all, of what the APP can NOT do include
  • prevent an individual from being a piercer
  • forward reports to the police, or other authorities, on behalf of the complainant
  • prevent an individual from contacting the complainant
  • take action 
    • in place of the proper authorities, particularly when someone is in imminent danger
    • on secondhand information
    • without the complainant’s permission
    • without investigating and finding supportable facts
    • on solely anonymous reports
  • publicly discuss allegations, investigation(s), or resulting disciplinary actions
If seeking action beyond or outside of the limitations of the organization, please consider other resources or legal options that may be available.

How are decisions made about reports?

Decisions are made by the Board of Directors, along with its legal representation. The decisions are based on the legal requirements of the nonprofit, our bylaws, and current policies. There must be a violation of a Code of Conduct or policy in place, agreed upon by the Member, employee, volunteer, or event attendee. Any decision must be made in impartiality and good faith for all parties involved, in accordance with the APP’s bylaws, and withstand legal scrutiny.


Reports filed are confidential. The Association of Professional Piercers has a policy of keeping confidentiality for all parties involved in incidents of this nature. Due to confidentiality required by law, we do not publicly discuss allegations, investigation(s), or resulting disciplinary actions.

The Board of Directors shall make every effort to provide advance notice to the complainant if the report must be shared with other parties in order to maintain general safety. The Board of Directors shall also provide the complainant with the name of the person to whom the APP intends to share the complainant’s statements and shall explain the necessity and purpose regarding the disclosure.


The Association of Professional Piercers recognizes the importance of remaining anonymous when filing reports of this nature. If you choose to have your identity protected from the accused party, we will make every effort to maintain anonymity. Absolute anonymity may not be possible if we investigate the report.

If the ONLY information provided is anonymous, certain avenues of recourse may be affected. Our bylaws require that, consistent with law, for any suspension or expulsion of a member, we must notify the member who may request a hearing on the matter. At the hearing the APP must present the reasons for the expulsion or suspension, and the member may present a defense. Without consent to disclose private information, the APP cannot proceed with a suspension or expulsion.

Supporting Documents

Documentation can be provided, but must be legally obtained. 

Official reports made to authorities can be of great value. Many people are hesitant to file reports to government agencies, often because they feel nothing will be done. While that may be the case, putting a report on record documents the issue in a legal sense. Gather or save as much supporting documentation as possible to be included.

Who should file a report?

Reports must be from someone that has been subjected to or a direct witness to harassment or abuse and wishes to report this to the organization. Reports should pertain to persons within the APP’s jurisdiction, which includes APP member, volunteer, representative, or anyone in attendance at an APP-sponsored event such as an attendee, speaker, or vendor.

How do I file a report?

For reports about a member or our events involving harassment, abuse, assault, etc., you can email the APP’s Secretary at secretary@safepiercing.org to request the appropriate form(s) to complete.

If the report is about an Officer or Board Member, you can email the APP’s Oversight Committee at oversight@safepiercing.org to request the appropriate form(s) to complete. This will bypass the Board of Directors and Officers.

For reports about health and safety practices of a member, not pertaining to harassment, abuse, or assault, submit reports and all documentation to the APP’s Membership Liaison at members@safepiercing.org.


The APP has compiled information below on resources varying from industry specific to those of outside professions and organizations. These are updated as information becomes available and as we make changes to our policies.

Interested in submitting a resource or collaborating with the APP? Proposals can be submitted by email to secretary@safepiercing.org.

Other Industry-specific Resources

Outside Resources

The APP recognizes that our organizational resources are limited when it comes to these issues and that we are not experts in this field. Below are outside expert outside resources, that amongst many things, can help you find

  • Support
  • Guidance on taking legal action
  • Resources for the workplace
  • Resources on accountability and restorative justice

Advocacy & Support



  • Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Toolkit by Equal Rights Advocates, this contains:
    • information about employees' legal rights
    • tips on what to do if an employee experiences sexual harassment or is facing retaliation
    • additional resources for legal information
    • crisis hotline by state and city
  • Women's Law - Providing information about types of abuse, danger assessment, safety tips, workplace resources, and legal information.

Accountability and Justice