My name is Rachel and this is my story.
For a long time, I did not have a voice. Now that I have one, it’s thrilling. A voice that is heard, one that makes a difference. The highs and lows of being a public activist can be addicting at times. By the time you read this, you’ll probably have heard my story multiple times. Its fresh, its new, but I’ve seen the effects of stories dying. Activists and victims are built up and then soon forgotten. The media seeks tragedy moving from one target to the next giving them the attention they deserve but here I still sit in my basement typing for a blog, hardly making ends meet. This is the reality for every nonprofit staff I know, they love to pedal the story but not support the cause.
I am an advocate, and activist, a loud mouth, a millennial, a peace keeper, a door mat, a victim of revenge porn. Victim… I forget that sometimes. I force myself to fly too close to the flame of revenge porn. The bees nest of abusers who degrade their prey to nothing more than body parts and worthiness in the form of trading. More recently I work with the police to identify these bodies to put a name to the image and then identify their age. I cope with this by calling it a game of “over/under” but don’t let that fool you, it takes everything from me. 4 hours of identifying, straining my brain to please remember… remember, “You saw her before, you went to high school with her! Was she an underclassman? Is she married? Good God, what’s her name?” Sometimes I fail, well a lot of times I do, and that’s worse than the experience all together. The nameless faces sometimes haunt me. It’s fucking horrible, 0/10 – do not recommend.
Now back to me and how I got here. About 6+ years ago I was at my all-time lowest point. My mom had died 4 months prior and if anyone has lost their mom at 20 years old, you know that it destroys you. I had also been drugged and sexually assaulted and a few “complications” came about because of this. It was simply, a mess. I was grieving with every cell in my body and had just moved back to Ohio from Pittsburgh where I was content and happier than I had ever been. And then I started receiving Facebook messages from acquaintances. I’ve always been wary of links from people I didn’t know so I ignored them. The messages went something like, “your nude photos were posted online click here to view,” with a link. Sketchy, right? I continued to receive more messages like that along with a lot of crude random messages from men until I received one from someone I figured I could genuinely trust. I remember the whole scene, I was sitting at the dinner table with my fiancé Ty and my step father. It was late November and we still had pumpkins. I opened the link and followed it to find my teenage self, from years before, staring back at me. I started to shake head to toe with anger or maybe it was fear. I would continue to shake the entire night. I showed my fiancé and he was speechless. I told my step dad about it and he made a few calls to the ex I had sent it to and it wasn’t him. (That’s a more complicated story for another time.) I wanted to run, scream, cry, fight… anything. But, I was not prepared for my step dad to attempt to calm me down by telling me, “Keep your head down, don’t draw attention to yourself,” “It will go away.” I decided then to go outside with a sledge hammer and smash all the pumpkins and gourds we had. It felt good but it wasn’t enough.
A few months and sleepless nights later and GUESS WHAT DAD they didn’t fucking go away. Glares at screen. I became obsessed, watching the conversations, following all the links, clicking screen names, collecting emails, reaching out to other victims… and being met by women who wanted nothing to do with my misplaced anger and internal rebellion. ALL THE ANGST. But I kept my head down. I knew that something had happened to me and it was bad but I didn’t have name for it. Searching on google to find any information showed minimal results other than more links to revenge porn and a few Cosmo articles about “the fappening” (the crude title given to the massive celebrity iCloud hack) if I was lucky.
Shout out to Cosmo for making me feel semi-normal in my loneliness.
One year later and revenge porn was a fucking epidemic. I didn’t know a single woman my age who was not on the site or others and I trusted NO ONE. I found myself thinking about fighting any man who graced me with a lingering glance. *I should note that I’ve never fought anyone, I dropped out of karate because I would cry when my mom would flip me but that feeling where, if you could shoot fire out of your eyes and watch them burn – you would. That was me. I spent more time than ever searching the boards because they were asking for more every day – Of me! The text read “I wish whoever said they have more of Rachel L, they would post them.” And omg the praise they would all give each other… there’s something interesting about the fucked-up culture of straight men who help each get off with stolen images of mostly minors. I’m not therapist but I think you should all seek some help. Around this time, I decided to help one of my classmates in college by letting her know she was just posted and she went. off. She went straight to one of our teachers and he helped her remove them. I was shocked that they could be removed and wanted to ask for his help as well but kept to myself. He contacted me later that night to inform me of my photos and then removed them for me. He must have reached out to some of the other local women because after that it spread through Facebook like wild fire. (Thank goodness, my photos were taken down by then). I’d report the links but nothing happened and messaged a few of the girls sharing it in outrage trying to explain that I got where they were coming from but they were also exposing a lot of women. They didn’t care, they were mad, I can understand that feeling.
FREEDOM – I was free! Free! I would check the sites and there would be more requests and new images but it wasn’t me. But, with revenge porn, freedom is just borrowed time. Borrowed time from the other women who were the focus of the week. One night, I received a message from an ex classmate from high school, whom I saw frequently at his popular place of work. He told me of a new site and that I had been posted, blah blah blah, same song and dance. But this time they had taken photos from my social media of me in a bathing suit and editing my dead mother out of them! – A new low that I didn’t think could exist. And let me tell you, FUCK THAT GUY – I found him posting using his personal email linked to his Facebook. This was the first time I really encountered the culture of “the nice guy” who gets off on rescuing damsels in distress. It’s a really common thing in revenge porn. But, I fell for it, cried to him… thanked him… * vomits internally thinking about it. * So, I asked for the help of my teacher friend to remove them again or maybe it just went away? I’m not entirely sure.
My images went up and down for years and I became more and more reclusive and withdrawn from society in general. My drinking increased – My social life decreased. PSA: drinking doesn’t help. I posted late night fb statuses about predators in our town and then deleted them. I wrote anonymous posts on IMGUR and REDDIT and found a great community of assholes who were sympathetic. I reported the whole site to NCMEC (national center for missing and exploited children) repeatedly because I knew for a fact hundreds of the featured women were underage in their photos but nothing came of it.
About a year ago, I was in a particularly obsessive and dark place when Katelyn reached out to me with a message saying I had been posted and my heart sank. I was so over the cat and mouse game that was revenge porn and I was ready to fight back. So, I unloaded everything to her in a message and got dressed and went to the police. Turns out around 6 other women went to police when I did and I was on cloud nine. Finally doing something felt fantastic. I joined BADASS made some posts in our private group and it was amazing to feel like I was a part of something and no longer alone in my struggles. I started doing more for the group and now I’m CSO/tech liaison. I devote a massive chunk of my time to victims of revenge porn and it’s not far from what I’ve already been doing these years but it’s different because now I have a voice, I’m not keeping my head down and it matters. I could drone on about all the projects I’m in charge of or working on. Honestly, I could fill an entire day with talking about revenge porn. I’ve gained so much knowledge that it’s hard not to spill it sometimes. Just know that we are making change, forcing the hands and hearts of many to hear our cries, and eradicating revenge porn once and for all. Thank you for taking the time to read this messy recollection of my story. Please get involved, call your lawmakers and tell them they need to protect the women and children in their states with a solid revenge porn bill. And if you don’t like the way something is… Do something about it, kick and scream and never be silent. YOU’RE important, YOU matter.
And to the assholes reading this and making fun of me, “we’re always watching.”
-Rachel Lamp, CSO and Tech Liaison @ BADASS