The Science of Victim-Blaming

“You shouldn’t have taken those pictures”

aka how to invalidate trauma with one sentence.

“Well, there wouldn’t be revenge porn if women didn’t make the porn to begin with”

“What kind of person sends their partners nudes and expects them to stay private?!”

“Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. If you take the pictures, you deserve to have them posted.”

These comments aren’t from a revenge porn site, or even 4chan. They’re from Facebook, on a local news story we did regarding the proposed SHIELD act- the federal criminalization of non- consensual pornography.

It’s not like these comments are one-offs either. We hear things like this EVERY DAY. Sometimes it’s from trolls, who can often be found lurking in the comments sections of local news stories, but often- it’s from people who mean well. When we first started BADASS, I thought maybe it was a generational thing- because humans haven’t always had the capability of sending photos instantly, that the older folks wouldn’t understand why millenials and the generations afterwards would even send nude pictures. I figured we would hear some victim blaming, but what I found-how frequently and viciously it happens- both horrified and fascinated me.

Needless to say, it wasn’t generational. It wasn’t just guys trying to demonize women for their sexuality (which DOES happen, often). Instead, a majority of the victim blaming we hear is from people who are overall- surprisingly decent. They aren’t sexist, or hateful, or blaming the victim to distract from their own guilty conscience. They often aren’t keyboard warriors, saying things they wouldn’t say in person- these people have zero issue saying it to my face, and not seeing any problem with what they are saying. This was a phenomenon I hadn’t expected- otherwise good people behaving in a very harmful way. That made me want to know more about why it’s acceptable in the eyes of so many, in the event of NCP, to blame the victim.

So I started close to home- I have several relatives, who- while they support my work and the BADASS movement- also feel that the victim is partially to blame for their trauma. I started asking them what made them think that way- and after some conversations that started REALLY AWKWARDLY, I think I found some answers. I’ve narrowed my theories behind victim blaming down to three, but I’m sure there are many more reasons.

    Sometimes, they just DON’T get it. Either they weren’t aware that this is a very valid form of sexual trauma, or they are of the generations that never took nude images. Pre-1980s Polaroid era, in order to take a picture- you not only needed to plan it but buying film and camera batteries, but you needed to get it developed. Photo developers would either not develop sexual images, or would print extra copies for themselves (old school nude theft), and so no one took those pictures. The concept of having a camera on you at all times, with the ability to send pictures instantly is relatively new, and people of certain generations just aren’t used to intimacy being formed over a digital connection. But when I put the same situation as NCP in a different way, they were less likely to say it was the victims fault. I told them this scenario- “a woman decides to fool around, consensually, with a man, and allows him to see her naked. Is it then acceptable for him to remove her clothing whenever he wants to, publicly or privately? Does her consenting to HIM then equate to consent for ALL?” When put in those terms, the issue became clearer, and the blame was put solely on the one acting without consent. And I asked how that fictional scenario differs from image based sexual abuse, and for many, that’s when it clicked- that the victim wasn’t to blame for the trauma.
    Even good people are vulnerable to having some of societies more problematic views rub off on them. The fact is, women’s sexuality has been demonized for a very long time. From eve committing the original sin to the Salem witch trials, to modern horror movies always killing the “slutty one” first- society has made sure that any woman deemed “too sexual” is punished for it. And that demonization is so pervasive, that even the wokest among us can find ourselves judging women’s sexuality as immoral. So, to them, I posed this question- if the genders are reversed, how did they feel? Was the victim still to blame if they are a male, and it is a female releasing the images? (We, at BADASS, have helped many men going through that very situation, so it’s not unheard of- NCP victims, in about 5% of the cases we see, are male.) and after asking how they feel with the roles reversed, many had different views than what they thought before. Perhaps they don’t realize that they’ve allowed sexism to infect them, but sometimes admitting our own prejudices is the best way to start erasing them.
    Bad things happen to good people. It sucks, but it’s true- the world isn’t a fair place, and the thought that any of us can be victimized horrifically at any point- for absolutely no reason- is a terrifying truth that many people will go to great lengths to avoid. By saying “if you hadn’t taken the pictures, this wouldn’t be a problem”, the speaker is actually convincing themselves that they will never have to face this trauma because they don’t make those same decisions. Or they may have made them, but their partners were more trustworthy. Or they kept the images more secure. Whatever lengths they have to go to convince themselves that they will never have to experience this, that somehow they are different. It’s a very human response, and the toughest to respond to- NO ONE wants to really face how absolutely unfair life can be, so they find ways of forcing it to make sense. But when you break it down- that they’re essentially saying that abuse and exploitation is a natural response to displaying vulnerability- even they can see the flaw in the logic. Its never fun to look starkly at the fact that life isn’t fair, and that horrible things happen to people who did nothing to deserve it- but it’s the truth. It’s unpleasant- and with the rise in forms of NCP that require no action by the victim, such as deepfakes, hidden cams, photoshopped images- it’s a truth we all have to face.

After navigating the psychological maze that is victim blaming, those were the best answers I could find as to why people blame the victim. There are others, but most came down to those three. No matter the reason, though, blaming the victim is an extremely problematic behavior. Not only does it add guilt to the trauma a victim is already experiencing, but it spares abusers the responsibility of harming another person. It allows the people whose actions harm others to continue those actions, consequence free. And it further traumatizes victims, pushing them towards being shamed into silence rather than reaching out to get the help they need and deserve.

So if you are one of those people who deems it necessary to comment on a local news story about revenge porn, saying it’s the victims fault- stop for a moment. Analyze your intentions, and your justifications for feeling that way. And think of the people you know, that have experienced this, and how they would feel knowing you think they deserve their pain and trauma. Put more care into your words, and think of the example you’re setting for all who read the comments. And hopefully, after taking those steps, you’ll put the blame where it belongs- squarely on the shoulders of those who share the images without consent.

Revenge Porn Culture is Rape Culture (NSFW)

revenge porn culture is rape culture. the woke boys know.

Approximately 1 in 25 Americans will become a victim of Revenge Porn in their lifetime. This crime has become increasingly common, yet society remains largely ignorant of the practice and its devastating- sometimes deadly- consequences. In this area of activism, we see a lot of pushback from not only those committing this act and consuming the Revenge Porn, but also from the rest of society. In any given comment section, it is likely that you will find more people insinuating that we (the activists) are attention-seeking folk with loose morals, offering us helpful nuggets of advice such as “you shouldn’t send nudes if you don’t want them to end up online” than you will find supporting our cause and lifting us up.

This is not an exaggeration. In a story done earlier this year I counted ten comments in response. Eight of them expressed the sentiment that we had it coming, one of them called a victim ugly, and the last comment gave the URL of the website where we had been exposed (the piece had purposefully left that information out to protect our privacy).

A handful of victim-blaming comments , and this is just from today!

We may never get through to the hardcore pervs or prudes. So, this piece is aimed at those folks in the middle- those who don’t understand the dark world of revenge porn and what happens beneath its surface, but have the willingness to learn more about it. I’m talking to the millions of modern Americans who have taken a photo of their own junk but have not yet had the displeasure of viewing said photo on an online message board open for public comment, and the people who love them.

Our reasons for speaking out are not selfish. We have been thrust into the spotlight, naked and on someone else’s terms. Who would choose that for themselves? It is a sexual assault of the digital variety. The Galaxy is under attack by a very Dark Force and as victims of this crime, it is our responsibility to shine a light on this disgusting culture before the bad guys ruin nudes for everyone.

For those who don’t see Revenge Porn as a “big deal”, understand this- Revenge Porn culture is an extension of Rape culture. Of this, we are certain. We see this attitude expressed toward us every day, but one of the most eye-opening examples for me was a message received by Katelyn mere hours after her appearance on Megyn Kelly earlier this summer. (Trigger Warning: Holocaust mention, extreme vulgarity, objectification of women, sexual references, transphobia, sexual violence, use of the R word to suggest intellectual disability… and probably some others.):

Continue reading “Revenge Porn Culture is Rape Culture (NSFW)”

Voices of BADASS: Lora J’s Story

We are beginning a new series on the blog!

Each week we will be highlighting a story or two from our members- the victims of image abuse and their allies. It is incredibly healing to be able to speak out about what has happened to you, and I am happy to facilitate that. Many of the stories you will read here have not been shared publicly before. My hope is that others may hear our stories and not be so quick to judge us for what has happened. As you will realize soon enough, this can happen to anyone.

This passage was written by Lora J, a victim of nonconsensual image abuse, and an incredibly powerful and BADASS woman.

In 2008, I married who I thought was someone I would spend the rest of my life with. Shortly thereafter, I realized I had made an incredible mistake. He started the manipulation, and the coercion. He would offer to “pay me” to take our daughter and go shopping or do anything but be at home so he could play video games. He started to blame me for things that weren’t my fault.

One year after we got married, he cheated on me and LIED to me about it. When I confronted him he had begged and begged me to not leave. I suggested that we separate for a little while and see where things went. He was not having it. He started guilt tripping me. I stayed. The abuse got worse. He started manipulating me into taking photos “for” him, he always said. He coerced me and told me things like, “you should do this for for me because I’m your husband” or “you should WANT to have sex with your husband.” I didn’t though. I didn’t love him, and I stayed because of our daughter. But consent didn’t matter. Each and every single time I told him no, but he would never take no for an answer and eventually coerced me into doing the things HE wanted me to do, regardless of how I felt.

He would call me a “whore” and a “cunt” and even said I was worthless. No matter what I did or tried to do, I was always called names. He broke my computers, my possessions my dad gave me that can’t be replaced, and even destroyed some of my daughter’s toys during his fits of rage. Sometimes these excuses were because “supper wasn’t ready when he got home” or “the dishes weren’t done.” He would call my daughter names because she made a mistake, forgot something or misplaced something. If anyone dare bother him, he would snap.

Finally, something inside of me cracked because I knew that if I didn’t leave and LEAVE SOON that someone was going to end up physically injured. I told my daughter we would escape this horror, and that our lives would be better because we deserved better.

Escaping a narcissist is no easy task. No matter how much he guilt tripped, begged, pleaded, blew up my phone, or cried… I PERSISTED. When I left, we had agreed that any of the photos he took of myself in an intimate setting would be deleted. (I repeat-, none of these I WILLINGLY took. ALL OF THEM were acquired via coercion and manipulation.) I stood my ground and I followed through with the separation and the divorce.

Throughout the divorce hearing, the judge asked how we wanted custody arranged, and whether child support should be set up. I denied child support, I denied a custody arrangement. I wanted out of my divorce NOW. I wanted nothing more than to be free of him. Finally our divorce was finalized November 2014. I moved on and moved away. I thought things were amicable and that we could co-parent successfully. I was wrong.

Fast forward to May 2016, I was browsing the list of blocked accounts on my twitter account and I chose to view his account. There were tweets upon tweets of these photos he AGREED to delete upon our separation and tweets with links to other websites. I started shaking. The first thing I did was tell my husband, and then we started googling. This username linked to his ACTUAL twitter account provided countless websites with all of these photos that he had agreed to delete two years prior. I contacted authorities- it went NOWHERE. My family and I moved, and then I dropped out of my college classes.

I contacted Cyber Civil Rights Initiative and they assigned me a couple attorneys through K&L Gates Law Firm. Because there was no law in place, authorities couldn’t act on anything. I documented everything, and my wonderful attorneys issued a cease and desist to my ex and asked for him to sign over copyright in September 2016. He obliged. Remember this, this is important. They then started issuing DMCA takedowns to all the websites that we could locate. I thought this was taken care of, that he was scared and it would go away and never happen again.

Summer 2017, I casually start running the username through google search again. Again, I find numerous websites with several photos. Again, I document everything. Again, I contact the authorities. This time, there IS a law in place. Still… nothing gets done. Finally.. I contact the county attorney and the sheriff. Together they decide to take on the case and open an investigation. They initiated a search warrant, they scoured his phone and 6 months later they told me his phone was clean and they couldn’t press charges. They didn’t say it wasn’t him, they said they couldn’t find anything on his phone to link it to him. So, they return his phone.

Now by now you would THINK a person would get the hint. We’re into May 2018. Again… search turns up results AS RECENT AS APRIL AND MAY 20 2018! Everything is documented, and the authorities are called. However, NOW they are telling me because the website isn’t responding they are going to do nothing.

WHEN WILL SOMEONE LISTEN TO ME? He is going to continue doing this until he is criminalized for doing this. He is hurting myself, and my family. I can guarantee I am not the only woman that he’s done this to, but the others aren’t aware. This person is a sexual predator and he is not going to stop until someone DOES SOMETHING. This is YEAR FOUR and counting. He takes ZERO accountability for his actions. He thinks he’s done nothing wrong. He thinks he is getting away with it. He has told me “it’s in the past and I’ve changed” so I guess that means everything that’s ever happened to me BECAUSE of him just magically vanishes. How many people will he victimize? How many families will he hurt or destroy?

I am a victim of non-consensual image sharing (commonly referred to as revenge porn). I will fiercely stand up for my truth. I am 1 in 25.

Change-Makers: BADASS Takes Columbus in Support of Revenge Porn Bill

Yesterday, a group of BADASSes in Ohio travelled to the state capital, Columbus, to give testimony in support of HB497.  HB497 is a bipartisan bill prohibiting the dissemination of intimate images. It was introduced in February 2018 and its sponsors include Rep. John Rogers  and Rep. Nathan Manning.

The day started with brunch provided by  Lynn Wellman and Stop Feeding the Predators. They were great to partner with and provided much-appreciated support to BADASS throughout the day. We are excited about the partnership moving forward. 

We are confident that all of our hard work will pay off and that HB497  will pass this session. After the testimony we gave, it’s hard to see how anyone could oppose this bill.

 

Founder Katelyn Bowden had this to say:

Katelyn Bowden

“Thanks to the very moving testimonies of some very brave BADASSes, it’s a good bet that Ohio HB497 will be past the session quickly. Every testimonial was given with a ferocity, strength, and resiliency that carried more stories than just her own- we woke a lot of people up to the horrific reality that is image abuse. And we are making some long overdue changes to the world.”

It’s an exciting time to be part of this organization as we help to shape future policy and raise awareness of what it means to be a victim of image abuse.  All of us are overwhelmed with pride for our fellow BADASSes who had the courage to speak out yesterday in hopes that others will not have to endure the trauma of non-consensual image abuse.

Katelyn’s Award Ceremony

One highlight of the day was Lynne from DFTP presenting Katelyn with this trophy. Katelyn was set to receive an award from the YWCA for being one of Ohio’s distinguished young women yesterday, but she chose to miss the award ceremony so that she could represent us in Columbus instead! Thank you, Katelyn!!!  

 

Please consider donating to our cause – Let’s change the world together!

A bunch of BADASSes

 

BADASS Aids in Arrest of 3 Pervs

Today is a BIG DAY for BADASS.

These 3 boys have been arrested as a result of a police investigation aided by BADASS. Our founder, Katelyn Bowden was able to identify one of these creeps as a suspect. Click for the full story in The Vindicator, by Jordyn Grzelewski.

The victory is a bittersweet one, as the men are getting off easy considering the severity of the crime they committed. In a comment to the article, Katelyn Bowden, our founder writes:

“This is a step towards justice, but we were unable to charge them with underage pornography thanks to DISCORD and their lack of cooperation with police requests. We really need to pressure discord to be against illegal image sharing- instead of just announcing publicly that they’re against it and doing nothing to actually prevent it.”

Mic drop.

It’s not too late for the victim to get the justice they deserve. All that would be needed is Discord App’s cooperation with law enforcement. Hopefully they do the right thing.

In the meantime, we will celebrate this as a victory for our cause. Let this be a warning for all of those choosing to engage in nonconsensual image abuse- we are coming for you.

BADASS in the News

BADASS has been busy lately- Take a look at where we’ve been showing up.

 

NEWS WEEK, BABY! Click the image to read.

 

Slutty Girl Problems did a story on us, too. Great job, Katelyn!

 

One of our own, Leah Juliett, founder of the March Against Revenge Porn, appeared in an article for Seventeen Magazine! BADASS even got a shout-out (Thanks, Leah!). See what they had to say by clicking on the image below: