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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Its Abuse not Revenge Pornography – Let’s be real now!

Let’s set the record straight

Its time for a reality check and an insight into the reality of what is politically referred to as ‘Revenge Pornography’!

I can tell you first hand that the evil that was done to me was just spineless, a cruel calculated act of jealousy, done by a person that allows their emotions to control their reality, callous and vindictive it is; the way some people think they can control another person in a way that causes distress on a different level.

Well look at it this way; according to the dictionary  ‘Revenge’ means:The action of hurting or harming someone in return for an injury or wronged suffered at their hands. ‘Pornography’ means: Printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity intended to stimulate sexual excitement.

So the political incorrect term of those labelled as victims of revenge pornography in essence; refers to victims who have been hurt or harmed by someone who feels they have been wronged; so they share explicit printed or visual material that display sexual organs or sexual activity to stimulate sexual excitement.

Is this sexual excitement for the perpetrator? Sexual excitement for the victim or sexual excitement for anyone that happens to come across it?

Slightly misleading don’t you think? Professor Clare McGlynn has written a brilliant article that clearly states why the name should be changed to reflect the crime.

After all abuse whether its on or offline is ABUSE!

not-revenge-porn-but-abuse-lets-call-it-image-based-sexual-abuse-by-mcglynnclare-erikarackley

 

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Don’t Suffer Alone! Stand Up Speak Out

Finally for the first time in 4 years I can honestly say I don’t feel alone on this journey. Its been a struggle but perseverance has been key.

VOIC now has a Facebook Group of victims that provide peer to peer support. If you are out there with no one to talk to and no one understands then why not join our group.

It’s a safe closed space and no one will judge you. Reach out and connect and don’t suffer alone. Just click on the poster to find our group.

 

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Collective Energy – A Room Full of Collaborated Understanding

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…..!

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Digital Abuse: A Collaboration Between Artists & Activists

Have you been a victim of Image Based Sexual Abuse aka Revenge Porn?

As a survivor and having directly been affected by this, I am putting myself out there!

Over the last 2 years I have worked tirelessly to help victims take back their power and learn how to take control of the impact this crime has. Its abuse and shouldn’t be tolerated. Let us stand together and make a difference, let us heal together and share our journeys. I know that it isn’t easy to ‘stand up and speak out’ about being abused – trust me it was a decision I didn’t make lightly but I feel so much better for doing so.

Working in collaboration with Sarah, an artist/activist I am taking part in the ‘Digital Abuse’ project –  which is a collaborative effort between artists and activists that uses education, empowerment and visibility to facilitate discussion, raise awareness and combat public perception of Image Based Sexual Abuse and the treatment of women online.

There are many ways in which you can speak out about your trauma! You don’t have to use words. Here is one of my journey photographs that I did with See It From Her – Survivors Project in 2016.

                                 You took a piece of me - Folami Prehaye

We are hoping that you are also ready to share your journey, share the burden and release some of that stigma that comes with being a victim of abuse.  We encourage you to join us in a united front. If you are ready to share and take back your power and would like to make a difference, come along to our creative workshop on the 13th and 14th of May.

Continue reading Digital Abuse: A Collaboration Between Artists & Activists

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