I set up this site to share my journey about being a victim of Image Based Sexual Abuse; my aim to empower other people who have experienced the same: To share with them that they were’not alone’ and that you can take back your power by speaking your truths. For me this was one of the ways I could ‘self counsel’ to help heal my spirit and make a difference. I felt the need to provide a common safe place for experiencers (victims) to share their journey, access support and discuss and share common feelings without being judged… Read More
In 2019 I met someone on Tinder.
We dated for 3 months but towards the end o the relationship he became very distant and rude at times towards me. It then ended quite badly with him sending nasty messages over WhatsApp that I was a fat dirty slut and that I was only good enough to be raped.
A few months went by and I was then contacted by a friend of his to say pictures I had sent to him during our relationship had been shared to a website without my consent with the purposes of selling me for sex to other men also without my consent. I also found out he had made a fake tinder account in my name from work colleagues.
I couldn’t go to the police as he had a young daughter and I didn’t want her to see her father as a monster. I also live in Northern Ireland he lives in the Republic of Ireland so if I had of chosen to prosecute it would have been me named as the victim and not him under Irish law.
I couldn’t face the shame of everyone knowing.
I spent over a year living in constant fear, at times I walked with my keys in my fists. There were times I couldn’t even leave the house. I also became extremely depressed during this time. I tend to relapse from time to time as I feel like I’m not good enough. I’ve turned a lot to comfort eating and have gained 3 stone. I feel like I’m trapped in a body that’s no longer my own. I hate having to look at or dress and undress myself. Even things like getting my hair cut leave me not wanting to look at the person staring back at me.
I tend to have a few good weeks at a time, then something will happen that will trigger me and then I’ll end up back to the start of my trauma. Recently it got so bad in October that I considered taking my own life – sharing my story has helped, reaching out to VOIC has been a godsend and I am still here to be able to share this story.
I have always understood that my ‘recovery journey’ was not going to be easy and that it would present many challenges; some of those challenges have been difference in perceived understanding of experience, expectations of self, others and those I support through their personal journey’s, interpretation of experience, challenging societal negatives and coming to terms with acknowledging that for some the realisation of promoting change, challenge perceptions and encouraging understanding is very painful.
I can’t deny that the term ‘revenge porn’ causes emotional harm to those that have experienced the impact of this heinous act of cruelty but ultimately we need to accept that change comes with pain and it is important and imperative that we engage, communicate, debate, express and challenge with what we already have, in my mind this is all part of ‘acceptance’ – a key word that has encouraged me to be where I am today.
Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me – was drummed into me as a child growing up in the 80’s – my life was very challenging, from a very young age I had to be tough, for so many reasons. This I guess has very much ‘moulded’ me throughout my adult life and could be one of many reasons why I have resilient thick skin, I look at challenges as a way of becoming a better me – don’t get me wrong here, I am not for one minute condoning the use of the term ‘revenge porn’ but engaging debate for you (the reader) to understand where I am coming from and for you (the reader) to understand my growth.
Image based sexual abuse or image based abuse (the terminology implemented by Professor Clare McGlynn QH (Hon) to promote understanding of experience whilst challenging and encouraging change) is very much the preferred and most accurate description of the crime. I have been using this ‘experiential description’ for many years and for sure the representation for me and many others speak volumes – the thoughtless created description (without real consultation) however has proved to be very harmful in many ways – descriptively ‘revenge and porn’ do not marry or connect with the realistic life experiences of many, as the crime is clearly a form of abuse – no doubt ‘to cause intentional harm’ – let’s be real here.
However, this terminology no matter how harmful, is unfortunately the current and most recognised form of expression and will undoubtedly be required to be used for those ‘not woke’ to educate, engage and promote societal change. I am an instigator of change and wearing that title for me, means having the duty of sharing the knowledge to trickle little by little the communication ebb and flow until the trickle overflows.
Change is definitely at ‘slow snail like progression’ but it is changing.
Sarah made contact with me back in 2019, a few years ago now and I have been supporting her ever since by being that source of non-judgmental advice, the listening ear and that support of encouragement to continue. It’s hard to imagine now that Sarah was very much at the beginning of her journey. It has been so important to me to have had the opportunity to help Sarah, as this has very much helped ‘my own personal journey to recovery’. Sarah shares her personal account of her journey below – I am humbled! At the end of her piece I have inserted a link to the documentary Sarah took part in – where she shares her story publicly to raise awareness.
How could this happen to me…a question I have asked myself many times over the past 3 years. I was a normal girl, leading a normal life, never did I think I would wear the label of victim. Never did I think I would have CID detectives visiting me at home. Never did I think I would set foot in a court room.
Aged 28 I was happily living my life, bubbly, confident, great job, engaged to be married, a beautiful son, the perfect house. From the outside I had a life many would dream of. But behind closed doors things were much darker. Every inch of my life was controlled by him, my clothes, my spare time, my relationship with family and friends. “Why didn’t you just leave” people asked, but only those who have ever been in the grips of a narcissistic sociopath would understand…I wasn’t allowed to leave. Whenever I tried, I was manipulated to return. In reality I was terrified to leave. He made me believe my life wasn’t worth living if it wasn’t with him. I was nothing without him.
But one day enough was enough. I had to go and no-one could have foreseen what the next few months would bring.
For the first few weeks I was still in his grips, I didn’t stay strong during the breakup so one evening he had persuaded me to spend one last night together. The final goodbye. And I agreed. “Why” people asked…well I was feeling empty, lonely, broken and needed to feel close to someone, and he had been the man I was about to marry. Continue reading The Road to Recovery – by Sarah (Victim Survivor)
Long after content has been removed that emotional element of having your most intimate images shared for all and sundry to view and comment on cuts deep!
Those emotional scars that keep you awake at night, that continue to play out in your mind like a film reel being continuously rewound and played over and over again, is the beginning of most experiencer’s (victim) nightmare. I tell you this experience can be very torturous for some as it plays between a ‘nightmare’ and a ‘daymare’ and can consume your day-to-day life.
There is definitely a need for ‘long term’ emotional support and it is becoming more and more apparent how important this is, in aiding ‘a person’s road to emotional recovery and enabling them to take back their power’. Having experienced this heinous, spineless, gut wrenching, emotionally destructive crime I can ‘hold my hands up’ and say how hard at times it’s been for me – each day presenting something different and analyzing every element of your experience, self victimising, self blaming and self loathing.
If I had someone who understood what I was experiencing, what I was feeling and how numb inside I felt, maybe I wouldn’t have set up the VOIC platform – who knows, but I definitely would have welcomed a ‘non-judgmental’ listening ear and a platform of voices that helped me through my tough days.
I didn’t have that emotional support crutch back in 2014
This quote sums it up for me:
You never really understand a person until you consider things from his/her point of view - until you climb into his/her skin and walk around in it [To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee]
Long term emotional support is an invisible but much needed resource – for some strange reason no one seems to understand how this ‘invisible light of support’, for many is a ‘life line’; a light at the end of a very dark tunnel; a spotlight in the dark or even a beacon of light. I set up victims of image crime (VOIC) for that very reason – to be able to help and make a difference, because it makes a difference to me, it helps my healing and my mental and spiritual journey to ‘taking back my power’ and my dignity.
The last 6 years I have truly come a long way and so have many others. It is time for change, we need more collaborative collective discussions that include talking about the ‘long term emotional affects’ image based sexual abuse has on experiencers.
A few nights ago, I was thinking about the different aspects of my life and how they had changed after my own image abuse experience.
I remembered how I used to trust pretty much everybody, after all why on earth would someone want to purposefully betray your trust by initiating a set of conditions where you have been ‘set up’ with the intent to cause premeditated damage and distress to your life? I mean that’s a pretty mentally twisted concept, isn’t it? For most of us it’s beyond comprehension, it’s an action so alien that it seems almost otherworldly.
Trust is something we learn from the first day of our lives and becomes part of our survival tool kit. Trust forms the primary foundation of friendships and relationships.
So, what happens when you find that you cannot trust? Not one damn bit.
You have no other option but to socially retreat, and disconnect from the world around you. To cut off friends and family, even those that you love. Despite their best intentions to be empathic, they cannot help you because you have mentally locked yourself down. It’s a protective mechanism that accompanies traumatic experiences, that are beyond emotional understanding.
That was me a few years ago, although I’m not clear as to when, precisely, that began to change for the better.
Today, whilst there are many scars still left, I hardly recognise the person that I once was. Don’t get me wrong, I am still suspicious of people’s motives…even though there may be none. Of the ‘scars’ that I mentioned earlier, my newfound suspicious nature is representative of just one of them.
Whilst it’s probably a good thing to regard people with an ounce or two of suspicion, it’s not so helpful when you are nurturing new relationships or attempting to navigate your way around workplace issues.
4 years ago, I honestly thought that I would never be able to find any sense of physical intimacy again. I thought that had been stolen from me, along with other parts of my life, as a result of my experience. Today I find myself 1 year into a new and loving relationship.
Which is why the subject of ‘trust’ entered my mind. Every now and then life rewards you with someone who patiently helps you work through the damaged parts of your soul. You expose them to your tears; you tell them repetitively that this is “not the person that you used to be” and how much you wish you could automatically trust once again, without issue. The most loving person of all is the one who becomes your lover, your little rock and the person that helps you to find the better aspects of your character that, once upon a time, you thought might be lost forever.
I wanted to share these thoughts, because the very night that I thought about ‘trust’ was the same night that I felt that someone out there, might need to read them.
As someone once said to me, those who matter don’t mind….and those who mind, simply don’t matter.
A life damaged by the thoughtless act of another individual, can be repaired. It’s important to hold onto that thought, and have faith that it will happen – eventually. You will always feel anger towards the individual that has abused you, but anger can be re focussed into something more helpful and creative. Like writing, or given time, the ability to snatch back some of the power that was taken away from you – by standing up and speaking out about image based abuse crimes. There are so many of us out there, and we’ll be there long after the journalists have written their articles – fighting for legislative changes to protect the victims of tomorrow….so that they can become survivors in the future.
Whilst reflecting on the last 6 years, how far I have come and how the term ‘revenge porn’ has tainted mine and many others who have experienced this form of ‘new age technology abuse’. Our strive as experiencers to ‘heal from the trauma’ of intentional deception of former partners or worse unknown others, it is apparent now more than ever that the term ‘revenge porn’ does not fit the crime and seriously points a finger to experiencers, ultimately negating the effects of the intent of the perpetrator to cause distress and harm.
Revenge – The action of hurting or harming someone in return for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands.
Pornography – Printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity intended to stimulate sexual excitement.
So by continuing to use the term ‘revenge pornography’ it is stating that the perpetrator felt the need to intentionally share without consent sexually explicit content because they were wronged and shared the content intentionally to stimulate sexual excitement? One has to ask – did they share for their sexual excitement or to arouse others to be excited sexually or both?
Either way the term only promotes public scrutiny, finger pointing/blaming and the undoubted questioning of ‘what you may have done to provoke such a heinous, callous and cruel act’.
One experiencer that I have supported said:
The term ‘revenge porn’ is one of the things that upsets her a lot as it instantly makes victims feel seedy, when sometimes the photos may not be. It has caused me to have panic attacks.
Just like this experiencer I also found the term very onerous, especially when questioned by someone as to what happened or explaining what the term means. It is definitely a horrible feeling that leaves a huge stigma on your mental health from a personal perspective. You go through stages of painful self blaming, you are disgusted at how you managed to allow this to happen to you and constantly beat yourself up by telling yourself how could you be so stupid.
Image Based Sexual Abuse is like online rape and by rape I refer to the acronym:
Repetitively And Purposely Exposed
The intention of the perpetrator is to cause harm not only by them but by others. I recollect reading the numerous ‘splurtacion of vileness’ when I came across the porn site that my ex uploaded my photographs to. Yep! Porn Hub was one of those sites. I felt sick to my stomach how people who didn’t know me had described how and what they wanted to do to me in such a sexually explicit way – I felt repeatedly sexually exploited, exposed and violated.
It is important NOW more than ever that we remove the stigma of ‘REVENGE’ and ‘PORN’ as the crime is simply ABUSE USING SEXUAL IMAGES. We must now refer to what it is IMAGE BASED SEXUAL ABUSE (IBSA). All those who provide support to experiencer’s should remove the negative connotation going forward and acknowledge the crime for what it is.
It all helps to ‘change the narrative’ and change is needed NOW.
For many of us 2020 will be far removed from the year that we might have hoped for.
The Covid-19 crisis has unveiled some of the best, and worst aspects of human nature. We’ve seen the number of reported cases of image abuse double, as we’ve taken to our gadgets to seek connections via dating applications, like Scruff, Grindr or Tinder.
We’ve even turned to webcam sites like Zoom, as we’ve searched for virtual sex experiences and sometimes, on the other side of those applications, we’ve had predators who have exploited another unsuspecting victim by sharing their images without their knowledge or consent
Back in 2016 I was one of those unsuspecting victims, lured into a situation where so many aspects of my life were exposed in a heinous criminal act where I was secretly webcam streamed using drugs, and having sex, with the same predator who recorded and uploaded that content. He did so without my permission, and with a blatant disregard for my life and privacy.
The predator responsible for that crime is still free to destroy the life of another individual, and despite being reported to the Police, hasn’t faced any criminal charges or accepted accountability for what happened that night. In short, due to failings within our current legislation, he has suffered no consequence for his actions. Continue reading A Year in Review, as a Male Survivor of Image Based Sexual Abuse – by David Canham
It’s time to change the narrative!
Taking nude photos isn’t a crime, it is most definitely without a doubt the sharing of sexual images without your consent that is the crime. Why cant others understand this. I talk through the mouth of someone who has and for others whom have also experienced Image Based Sexual Abuse (Revenge Porn) and quite frankly I am tired of trying to make sense out of nonsense, although for my sins I will continue to try in order to bring about change.
Current UK law states:
You need to prove intent – so what the law is technically saying is that someone who shares an explicit or sexual image of you without your consent has done so for a laugh! Oh sorry your honour I did it for the fun of it.
To prove the sharing of the explicit or sexual image without consent was done so to cause distress and harm – forgive me if I am stupid but who the hell would not be affected emotionally and mentally if an explicit sexual image of them was shared for all and sundry to see and comment on?
The current UK law doesn’t automatically give experiencers (victims) the right of ‘anonymity’ which is why in most cases your entire experience is continually perpetrated by the media and social platforms. This to me only perpetuates the continuous cycle of distress and harm (photo ‘Emotional Turmoil’) and possibly on a wider platform, as we all know sex sells and feeds the minds of the uneducated.
The local newspaper in my town printed my name, how many times my images were viewed on the internet (around 48,000 or there about’s) and they also had online visibility!
Is there then no wonder that public inquisitivity then thought it was okay to then repost, reshare and look for those images on different platforms that then caused further stress – by the way all of this could have been avoided if those that initiated the current ‘Revenge Porn Law’ thought about repercussions for the experiener (victim), instead of ensuring the perpetrator was protected.
I have worked with the Law Commission on Phase 1 of their review on current sexual related crimes and whether they are fit for purpose – it will be interesting to see what happens in Phase 2 – which will be taking place very shortly.
It’s time to change the narrative – let us see how seriously the concerns and views of experiencers (victims), researchers and campaigners for change are taken on board when undertaking the review. I will not rest until I see ‘proper productive, informative, constructive change’…..
It’s been 4 weeks since the 23rd October, and 4 weeks on I’m slowly beginning to realise just how important that date was…both in a deeply personal way, and in the representation of male IBSA experiencers – whether gay or straight.
Predominately this was an evening to raise awareness about Image Based Sexual Abuse within the LGBTQ community, but it was also about taking those first important steps towards unshackling myself from the humiliation and shame that an IBSA crime bestowed on my life, 3 years ago.
It was about speaking a truth, my truth, and in so doing decreasing the power that experience had over me.
Ultimately that’s what these crimes are all about, the power that the perpetrator(s) have over you….by the way of intentional public shaming. But once you begin to acknowledge, and find a way to ‘own your truth’, that power is diminished. My recovery journey is far from complete, but I will say this, the 23rd October now feels like a truly pivotal turning point in my life. A game changer if you will.
For those of you that have followed my journey, through social media or otherwise, you will know how much this issue means to me – it is truly close it is to my heart – particularly in terms of IBSA representation within the gay community. At the beginning of this year, I challenged myself to fight my fears and speak out. The fight against Image Based Sexual Abuse crimes cannot be won on words alone, and neither could I successfully participate in that battle without being able to vocally speak out.
When I was asked to participate as a member of the panel, I knew instantly that I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t. Despite my fears about speaking publicly, I surprised myself. There was so much that I wanted to say, perhaps there were things that I wanted to say…and didn’t. I have no regrets, only excitement for the future….and what could be achieved in establishing better recognition for both current and future victims of IBSA (Revenge Porn). These crimes are here to stay, and they are developing and adapting. They are destroying more lives on a daily basis and we desperately need change to happen now.