I wrote this a few months ago and thought I would share it. The emotions are real!
Calming voices talk to me at night, when my eyes are closed I wander to a place where I no longer feel alone.
I stumble upon a pasture that was once green with life, whittling away dying from the cause of mindless people. You know, those people that make the world seem such a cruel place.
As I knelt amongst the pasture, I lay my head and cried because I also felt like I was whittling away and dying. I became slumped in a place where life seemed to be dark and lonely.
I close my eyes and the calming voices appear once again. I listen intentively and start to write mental notes but the tears kept on coming. The calming voices became louder to a volume where I had no choice but to listen.
Dried up tears turn to smiles and as I open my eyes and inhale, the pasture that was once whittling and dying now green with life and purpose, I no longer feel alone.
I feel safe but now know that the pasture and I have commonality and that time, patience, empathy, love and compassion will enable trust to build as the bond grows stronger.
Those calming voices I heard when my eyes closed at night and started to get louder until i had no choice but to listen, no longer just happened at night; they became my reality and I no longer feel alone
The moment you walk into a room, you feel exposed but you feel safe!
Today Saturday 13 May 2017, I felt like a huge bolder had been removed from my shoulders; a knott removed from the blades between my neck and my arms, that feeling of an object being stuck in your throat and you cough or swallow and it disappears. That’s how I felt during and after the Digital Online Abuse – A Collaboration between Activists, Victims and Artists.
At last! I am surrounded by energetic souls empowered to make a change, buzzing with energy and exhuberated creativity that filled the whole room. I smiled, I was energised and my spirit alive. It has been a long journey – one that has taken 3 years in the making, to sit in a room of souls and listen to how there experience was similar to mine; a room full of empathy and understanding. We had a common objective and a common understanding and all without judgement. Ears intentively listening, eyebrows raised we all absorbed the energy that surrounded the table.
At last! I feel I have done what I originally set out to do. To make a difference, to empower others to take control and take ownership to self empower, find self worth and motivation to make a change. We shared, we laughed, we cried – so much absorbed energy that I feel overwhelmed but very emotionally drained. We discussed common experiences, common understanding, we debated, we changed perceptions, we ate together and we talked about intimate things, like the vagina, the difference between male and female experiences, how we are all individuals that share commonality. I felt safe, i felt loved, i felt inspired!
Image Based Sexual Abuse (IBSA)/Non-Consensual Image sharing was most definitely the subject of the day; the reason for the collaborative artistical entwinement of ideas that I know will provide that place for healing through a collective creative approach. Im buzzing and ready for the next step…..!
If we could all speak out verbally about the way we feel, the hurt we have gone through, the trauma being abused brings and the betrayal that you feel, knowing you let someone do this to you! Imagine, there are many victims who want to speak out but don’t know how; to find the courage, the belief or the strength to do so.
‘How powerful would it be if we could all speak out verbally’
I dedicate this post to those victims, that cannot express themselves verbally like I do. For those who are struggling, to ‘live happy lives’ because the affects of image based sexual abuse, has ‘stripped their spiritual soul’ and they have been thrown into a world of depression, unworthiness, disgust, fear, anger, disgrace and despair.
I agree that victims should be given a choice whether to remain anonymous or be seen in the public eye
By Sarah Bell Victoria Derbyshire programme: 15 December 2015
Victims of “revenge porn” should be given the same anonymity as victims of other sexual offences, campaigners say. A petition urging a change in law has been launched by the Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, Julia Mulligan, and a revenge-porn victim. Keeley Richards-Shaw, whose ex-boyfriend was the first sentenced under the revenge-porn law, said media coverage had increased her distress.
The Ministry of Justice said judges had discretionary powers to withhold names. Sharing revenge-porn images and videos became a crime in England and Wales in February, but the law currently gives victims no right to anonymity.
Mrs Mulligan and Ms Richards-Shaw have written to Justice Secretary Michael Gove and the chairman of the Justice Select Committee, Bob O’Neill, requesting meetings on the issue. They have also launched an online petition called Change the Law: No More Naming of Revenge Porn Victims.
‘From bad to worse’
Ms Richards-Shaw told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme she had become involved in the campaign after her ex-boyfriend shared intimate photos he had taken without her knowledge. He was prosecuted and given a suspended jail sentence.
She said a change in law was crucial to help victims “keep their personal life personal”.
During the court case, she had told just very close family – but the day before he was to be sentenced, she received a text message saying the press were planning to cover the story .
“It just went from bad to worse,” she said. “My picture, my name, my job, they’d gone on my Facebook page and published that, they were waiting for me outside court, I had them at my doorstep the next morning. It was horrible – I had gone from being stalked by him to being stalked by the media.”
Mrs Mulligan said there was a loophole, as “revenge porn” seemed to have been categorised as a domestic abuse offence as opposed to a sexual offence.
“If you looked at it in the sexual offences category when the law was being passed, then they may have thought about anonymity.
“We really want ministers to listen to what Keeley has to say and to change the law.”
She added that some of the media had said they would not publish victims’ names, but this was not automatic.
The law classes “revenge porn” as “photographs or films which show people engaged in sexual activity or depicted in a sexual way or with their genitals exposed, where what is shown would not usually be seen in public”.
It covers images shared on and offline without the subject’s permission and with the intent to cause harm. Physical distribution of images is also covered. A Ministry of Justice official said: “Revenge porn is an abuse of trust that can leave people feeling humiliated and degraded.
“By making it a specific offence, we have sent a clear message that this crime will not be tolerated and we have already seen an increase in the number of people coming forward.
“It is vital that victims have the confidence to report cases. That is why judges have discretionary powers to prohibit the naming of victims if identification would affect the case and cause undue fear or distress.”
For those following my journey, I feel that at times I need to tell you how I feel.
This has been a very lonely journey and at times I feel frustrated, disappointed but really not surprised to be honest. I have been helping other victims since becoming a victim of Revenge Porn in 2014, which is over a year ago and long before the Revenge Porn Helpline or the new Revenge Porn Law came into fruition.
Its alarming how those who claim to be fighting the same cause, ‘raising awareness of revenge porn’; ‘those who provide support & advice to victims of revenge porn’ deem to do so alone. I have tried to reach out to victims who speak out publicly (by the way there aren’t many) and other agencies to work in partnership against this heinous, sole destroying and destructive crime. To date this proves to be a battle – just like battling my fears when I was a victim of revenge porn.
Now a survivor I feel that I have made my stance clear!
I do this because I care, because I’m passionate and no longer want to be a victim but to take control of my life. I do this because I want others to see that even though life can be painful and people are cruel, vindictive and hurtful. You can rebuild your life.
In the summer of this year, I was asked to be a guest presenter on Crimewatch. My topic ‘sextortion’.
Talking about the rise of this internet crime, it dawned on me that this in fact is another ploy to publicly embarrass, victimize and cause destructive stress to victims by using sexual images or videos, but with an added financial gain.
This is the crime that involves extorting money or holding someone to ransom for financial gain. If your not careful you could easily become a victim! Victims are often caught out by surprise, they think they have befriended someone genuine through social media. This could be via Facebook, or any social media platform. Victims are usually caught out after a brief conversation or after building a very brief but sexual relationship with someone they think is real. Then when the victim feels comfortable they are coaxed to either talk via a webcam using an online gateway or by using another form of webcam device such as Skype.
I interviewed, Wayne from Scam Survivors on Crimewatch.
‘It is important to understand that my journey was and still is very very painful’
This is apparent if you watched me when I first appeared on This Morning, you could see the pain in my eyes, you could feel the pain in my words. Yesterday again I appeared on TV, The Lorraine Kelly Morning Show, this time a year later.
I didn’t want to come across like a victim because that I am not, I am a survivor! It’s important for those that watched/listened to me and may have thought:
Ahhh! But she looks well, she has got over the ordeal rather quickly, look how confident she is, she doesn’t sound or look like a victim!
Let me just say for me to be able to help another I feel you need to have dealt with your pain, your torture, your anxieties and your shame, otherwise you are helpless to another and will only add your burdens to theirs. This is not empowering.
I am still healing, although I have very much taken back my power, I hold my head high and walk strong.
I still feel pain, hurt and mistrust!
Talking on The Lorraine Kelly Show yesterday opened up the pain I had hidden away, the pain I thought I had dealt with. I woke up this morning feeling very very low, emotionally fragile and started to cry. I know in time it will pass and I will find that kind heart that beats in time with mine. I cry and laugh to help me heal but I laugh more.
I wanted to show those who cannot speak up or who are afraid and still ashamed that life goes on. You cannot stay a victim forever, this I know is very hard and does take time, probably a very long time. I have connected with people that have wanted to ‘take their life’ and end the pain of public shame – I haven’t personally had those thoughts but empathise with those who do.
This is not an easy journey, its painful and at times very very unbearable for many.
Becoming a survivor means the perpetrator hasn’t beaten you, you have taken back control and continue to live your life and I’m all for surviving as we only have one life and god knows it’s short enough! #revengeporn
This has always been and will continue to be about keeping the topic of revenge porn alive. Sharing my experience and sharing how to take your power and control back after having your personal photos shared with the whole world. The connection I had with Lorraine was warm and caring, she understood, she empathised and paid attention to every word I said.
I am no longer a victim of revenge porn but a survivor, a strong woman that has taken back control of her life, I walk with my head high as I know that I did nothing wrong! I was the victim in all of this and I never consented to allowing my intimate photos to be shared outside of my ‘then’ relationship. Hatred and anger has left my heart and I now embrace the journey that has been given to me. My path has opened doors and enabled me to connect with people all over the world.
It makes me so happy to be able to connect with people who are still victims and to be able to support them emotionally through their journey, its a honour. I will continue to speak up and speak out about Revenge Porn until such time that victims feel strong enough to walk by my side and speak in unison.
If you have been affected by Revenge Porn and don’t know who to turn to for emotional support please contact me. I will listen without judging you, I will show compassion because its so close to my heart and I have been there. I understand and know the journey you are on. Reach out to me and together we can make a difference. Take back your power and regain the strength to move on in your life and share the burden. Follow me on twitter @voic_tweets and Instagram victims_of_internet_crime. I am also on facebook and email: firstname.lastname@example.org, so there are many ways you can reach out and connect with me.
The new revenge porn changes in Law! Will it make a difference? Will it change the lives of the victim but now you have to have proof that the intent was there and evidence to back it up. I have had a few victims tell me that they have got evidence and even a confession and the police are not taking up her case!
Does this mean that the buck stops with the Police as to whether they take on a case or not. Will these types of interventions encourage victims to come forward? It seems that the Police need hands on training and guidance as different forces deal with their caseloads on revenge porn in different ways. Should their not be common focused approaches to this crime? Read my opinion in the Independent on Sunday:
Imagine a ship that travels from port to port, picking up passengers from near and afar. We mingled together and had many a good times, laughter was had but also sad times.
There were ups and downs on this ship but friendship kept our spirits high. The years past and the ship no longer visited the ports but drifted into the ocean and lost it’s direction but friendships kept our spirits high. We laughed and joked and kept the momentum going.
The waves became rockier and the wind would howl against the mast of the ship. Suddenly I felt the water beneath me, it was waist high….was I drowning? No I was swimming and friendships kept my spirits high.
The water was deep as I swam and swam with no clear direction. I could see the shore ahead, the sand was golden and the waves calm as the water ebbed and flowed but as I swam the sharks attacked hungry for a weak and helpless catch but I swam towards the shore, I kept thought of the friendships that kept my spirits high and fought off the sharks with this in mind.
Finally I reached the shore, I took a deep sigh and a very deep breadth it was at this point I realised that the friendships that had kept my spirits high was the reason I was alive.