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How I Took Back Control Of My Life After Being A Victim Of Revenge Porn

“Well, I guess you've learned your lesson now, then,” said my case officer, after she took notes of the story I had just relayed to her.

The lack of support and blatant victim-shaming caused me to instantly curl up in a ball of tears as soon as both police officers let themselves out. I was scared for my own safety, so I called up a friend to come over with wine.

It was something I never thought would happen to me. When traumatic things happen to other people, that's normally one of the first things people say.

I definitely did not see this coming, and I'm pretty sure that shock was reflected in my expression. In August 2015, I found out that I was a victim of revenge porn. More shock slapped me in the face when, after digging a little deeper, I found out this person had been using images of me that I had naively taken under the age of 18.

If you're not sure what revenge porn is, let me introduce you to one of the darkest parts in the world wide web. Revenge porn is the sharing and publicizing of images with the intention to embarrass. Most commonly, it is when a former partner shares your intimate pictures via social media.

My experience of this was not quite so black and white, as the person who uploaded these images had been a trusted friend for many years after we initially had a short-term, romantic relationship. He had gathered quite a few photos of me over several of those years.

For reasons I still don't know — as I don't see the point in asking — the images were put on some of the grimiest porn websites I have ever seen with captions I don't wish to repeat. He encouraged viewers to share the images and talk about them on forums, which was unpleasant to read, to say the least. This prodding inspired somebody else to take my images and create fake social media accounts, portraying me in ways that were untrue and soul-destroying.

You would most logically assume that googling the pictures and finding them on so many different websites, realizing the length of time I hadn't known about them and witnessing some of the view counts on the pictures were the worst parts of this whole thing.

But, they really weren't. The worst part is happening to me right now.

Of course, August was a terrible month. I had to report to the police what I had found, attempt to persuade websites to take down the images, report social media accounts and so on.

Not knowing what to do was crushing. Not only did I feel like an idiot for taking the pictures in the first place, but I also didn't have a clue about how to get the whole thing deleted and gone forever.

I remember distinctly driving home from work one day, just thinking that if I were to swerve right then, it would all be over. I wouldn't feel anything anymore. I wouldn't have to deal with all this shame.

Unfortunately, those feelings haven't been completely shaken off, not even after the guy was arrested and charged. When my case officer called me to let me know he had admitted to the offenses, she said she hoped it would bring me some sort of closure.

It didn't, really. More than anything, it made it seem even more real.

In October 2015, I went to see a doctor for my anxiety and sadness. He was very sympathetic and diagnosed me with depression, giving me leaflets and a prescription to help me feel better.

My diagnosis felt like another slap in the face. How on Earth was it fair for this guy's actions to cause me to feel this low?

The point of this post is quite a selfish one, really. As I've been struggling through this depression (which is a lot harder than I once thought), I haven't vented much. Talking about darker emotions is not something I can do easily.

So, I decided to write about revenge porn and what it does to people. Victims feel all sorts of emotions, including worthless, embarrassed, shameful, idiotic, helpless, isolated, betrayed, hated, disgusted and numb.

I also want to give some pieces of advice that will hopefully help anyone who is unfortunately experiencing similar circumstances. If you know someone who is going through this, here are the things you should keep in mind:

– Don't make jokes about it.

– Don't try to turn it into a compliment.

– Most importantly, do not blame the victim.

I can't stress that last point enough. I couldn't believe how some people I told made me feel worse by being unsympathetic, as it was obviously “my fault” for taking the pictures in the first place. I was being “appropriately punished” for being “promiscuous.”

Yet, it seems normal for a man to send a dick pic after a three-message exchange to a girl on Tinder. But I digress.

If you know someone who is going through this, here is what you should do: Offer a listening ear. If you are going through this, here are the things you should do:

– Call the police.

– Make contact with the Revenge Porn Helpline if you live in the UK.

– Confide in a close friend.

– Blame the person who has done this to you, but do not blame yourself.

– Talk about it. There's nothing to be ashamed about.

– Talk to me if you'd like. You can contact me here.

– Talk to a trained professional stranger, like the Samaritans.

Hopefully, this informs a few people about what revenge porn actually is and what it can do to someone. Even better, I hope it helps somebody else who is going through this horrible experience. Perhaps some good will come out of this after all.

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Lauren Evans

Contributor

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