Trust – by David Canham

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.

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Abuse not Revenge

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.

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A Year in Review, as a Male Survivor of Image Based Sexual Abuse – by David Canham

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

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It’s time for real change – less talk and more action

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 intentso 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 harmforgive 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 rightEmotional Turmoil - Folami Prehaye 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’…..

 

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Love Death & Taxes – Image Based Sexual Abuse Within the LGBTQ Community by David Canham

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.

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Love Death & Taxes – Image Based Sexual Abuse Within The LGBTQ Community

That moment when you feel proud of your achievements as you watch someone you have supported stand up and speak their truths in front of complete strangers.

It’s been a long journey and one that has felt really lonely as well as doubting your ability to make a difference and yet still there I was sitting next to David Canham as he spoke so openly and emotionally about his experience of being violated, shamed and broken down to the core of the non-consensual sharing of intimate sexual images of him at the Love, Death & Taxes event organised by Mishcon de Reya LLP and the Gay Women’s Network on the 23rd October 2019.

David’s story mirrors mine and many other experiencers regarding the long-term emotional turmoil that follows the experience and the long-term rehabilitation of self thereafter. I felt overwhelmed by the experience of being able to support another where this wasn’t available to me 5 years ago. I felt accomplished, proud, tearful but humbled at the same time but most of all it felt right.

I found out like many others who attended the event the depth of the intricate layers that the LGBTQ community has. David shared very deep personal attributes to his experience which highlighted the use of drugs within the LGBTQ community and trust me this is only one layer or many. It is clear that there is a need for signposting and general emotional support but there is also much more that needs to be done, to understand the layers in order to ascertain the support that is needed. The event for me as the founder of VOIC was to connect with those within the LGBTQ community that can help to make a difference. To help break barriers, stereotypes and acknowledge that Image Based Sexual Abuse (Revenge Porn) happens in all communities and that they are not immune.

Throughout my journey I have always said that I’ve found it hard at times as a woman; more to the point a Black woman speaking openly about my experience although at the time I felt this was my only option to try and make sense of what happened and used it as a coping mechanism to taking back my power. I have always said that speaking out will be hard for a male to follow suite.

On the 23rd October 2019, David Canham spoke his truths and made a difference not only to him but also to me and all the other people that attentively and emotionally listened to what was said. It was humbling. David’s personal thoughts about the event can be viewed here. The other panel members Professor Erika Rackley (Law School, Kent University) and Sophie Mortimer (Manager, Revenge Porn Helpline) both complemented David’s personal journey and reiterated the need for the LGBTQ community to speak out about Image Based Sexual Abuse, they both made referenced the gaps in services specifically catering for that community and the importance of raising awareness.

You know, there are so many social norms that are unacceptable and I commend David for holding his own and taking that step to stand up and speak out. The LGBTQ community is one of many marginalised and hard to reach communities that have lots of intricate layers. We need a breakthrough in order to get to the nitty gritty of the impact, experience, doubt, non-acceptance of image based sexual abuse before we can educate and signpost.

I aim to make a difference with those that took the time to connect with myself and David at the event, as I am a great believer that together ‘we can make a difference’.

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Changing Perceptions & Expectations of Others

The 1 July 2019 was a truly momentous and memorable day as it saw the launch of a very significant and pertinent report/research.

Shattering Lives and Myths – A Report on Image Based Sexual Abuse

This very detailed and inclusive report was undertaken by Prof Clare McGlynn, Durham University, Prof Erika Rackley, University of Kent & Asst Prof Kelly Johnson, Durham University. It highlighted all the key recommendations to Parliament in respect of the changes to the current law provision that need to be put in place in relation to online sexual abuse and sharing of explicit content without consent (a form of abuse). 

The lead up to the launch was for me as usual busy with media requests, which honestly has been a part of my journey for the last 5 years. There have been so many occasions when I have ‘swore,  screamed and cried’ at some of the outcomes of interviews but the interview done with Channel 5 News captured exactly how it should be done.

Channel 5 News Interview – Online Abuse Review Launch June 2019

The launch was a crucial milestone for victims, activist, researchers and supporters for changes that can only be of benefit to those made to feel like they have done something wrong. To read the full report visit my post Shattering Myths about Image Based Sexual Abuse – Clare McGlynn, Erika Rackley and Kelly Johnson

It’s about time the laws reflected the voice of the victim and not the actions of the perpetrator/accused. I am ready for change and will continue working collaboratively with those who share the same vision and finding creative ways of:

Challenging and changing perceptions/expectations of how this crime is viewed, dissected, portrayed and sensationalized

The launch was held in the House of Parliament and chaired by Maria Miller MP; attendees was a mixture of activists, support charities and victims. The questions that arose from the launch were challenging with many positive acknowledgments to the proposed changes.

There where powerful expressive emotional journey talks by others who have also experienced the cruel and disheartening crime of their sexual images being shared without consent. Listening to the impact it had on their lives brought ‘tears to mine’ it reminded me of mine and many that I have had the opportunity to support through their journey. Although saying this I was also ‘inspired’ by their fire and motivation to take back their power and to stand in a public and talk their truths.

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Shattering Myths about Image Based Sexual Abuse – Clare McGlynn, Erika Rackley and Kelly Johnson

Image-based sexual abuse thrives on myths.

Myths about motives. Myths about victims. Myths about political,  legal and institutional responses.

  • It’s only a picture, you can move on … myth!
  • It’s all illegal now anyway … myth!
  • All you need to do is report it to the police and the picture will be taken down … myth!

Our report – Shattering Myths and Lives: A Report on Image-Based Sexual Abuse – drawing on 25 interviews with victim-survivors of image-based sexual abuse concentrates on the reality of this pernicious form of sexual abuse.

Image-based sexual abuse shatters lives. A significant numbers of victim-survivors experience profound ‘social rupture’ – a major devastation that drastically alters all aspects of their lives. Take, Anna (not her real name), for example:

“My whole world just crumbled … I’m nowhere near the person I once was. That’s gone and it’s rebuilding a new part of me now … It’s torture for your soul, it really is”

Victim-survivors spoke of abuse that is constant, ongoing and relentless; that shatters not only their lives, but also the lives of those who love and support them.

And yet, the Government is proposing to wait at least three years – that is until 2022 – before making changes to the law that we know now would make a dramatic difference to victim-survivors. Such as extending the law to cover so-called ‘fakeporn’ and threats to distribute nude or sexual images without consent, to provide all victim-survivors with automatic anonymity, to provide victim-survivors, and those supporting them, with resources and support to enable them to provide bespoke technical and long-term emotional support.

ACTION IS NEEDED NOW

To provide victim-survivors with increased protections, access to justice, adequate support and to prevent further lives from being shattered by this devastating form of abuse. And if the Government truly understands this, it will take action now to correct the most egregious gaps in the law, and increase support for victim-survivors.

Read the full report here

 

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My Story Joins Your Story – Let’s Change the Game Forever Together – David Canham

As I begin to write this, I’m exactly 4 weeks away from the anniversary date of a premeditated internet revenge act, an act that was targeted toward me by a group of sick individuals – who felt they had the right to expose personal aspects of what was then a deeply troubled life.

What started off as a ‘chemsex hook up’ turned into a hellish nightmare, that still affects my life today and has taken close to 4 years to recover from.  Both the recovery and rebuilding processes are still ongoing, and as part of that process I’ve decided to write my story for VOIC. This is the first time that I’ve publicly spoken out about that incident, and whilst I understand more about it now, I know that the journey has only just begun and further difficult times and discoveries await.

In retrospect I wish I had listened to that voice inside my head, that was trying to scream “get the hell out of there” but I wanted to lose myself in a world of meaningless sex and escape the hurt and pain that I felt at the time. I had lost my sense of self preservation, respect and survival.

To put my story into context, and for the first time in my life, I need to take ownership of an addiction to Crystal Meth.  An addiction that developed over a number of years on the gay party circuit. There were times when I naively thought that I had it under control, some of those times were during an 8-year relationship. For those times where I failed, life for my partner would have been tough to say the least, and as I look back over those years I take a personal responsibility for the pain that was endured. You must be ready to admit an addiction issue, and whilst I was hugely ashamed of it, I couldn’t bring myself to look at it closely enough in order to change it.

I was unaware that, during our turbulent time together, my partner was betraying my trust and indiscreetly going to pre-arranged sex parties – predominately but not limited to South London, where we spent a number of years living together. We both had interests in the gay fetish scene, which is how our relationship started. Over time, and through his own selfish wants and desires, my private struggles with Meth addiction were becoming widely known to people within that community. He was effectively using my issues, as an excuse for his own behaviour.

Several things are important here, the perpetrators who were involved in my ‘chemsex setup’ knew exactly who I was…. they also knew (through prior sexual interaction) my ex-partner. They had heard his stories, and thought it was time “someone taught me a lesson”.

For the want of a better phrase, they had appointed themselves as both ‘judge and juror’. At no point did they stop to consider the effect their actions would have on my life, career or family. Their minds were and are, too sick and warped, to even have a basic notion or care.

Their aim then was to webcam stream (without my knowledge or consent) an act of drug taking called ‘slamming’. A crude term for IV injection, used within the gay party scene. That aim was achieved in a flat in North London during 2016. Within minutes and seconds, it was streamed across a hardcore gay website, notoriously known for the darker side of fetish sex. Continue reading My Story Joins Your Story – Let’s Change the Game Forever Together – David Canham

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My Reality

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

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