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.

How Catherine Bosley Inspired BADASS

Growing up in Youngstown, I had the privilege of seeing Catherine Bosley deliver the news on television- and, because my mom was her hairdresser, I got to know her as a person and the amazing human being that she is.

When I was 19 (showing my age here), I distinctly remember when the video of her, participating in a wet t-shirt contest, came out. It was around the same time that the Janet Jackson halftime show debacle happened, and it was the first time I had thought to myself “it’s BS that these women are being punished for having bodies, and daring to show them off. This isn’t fair.” Catherine was young, beautiful, and excellent at her job- and I was seeing, for the first time, how cruel the world can be to women who possess those attributes.
Following Catherine’s story, and her ability to fight back with both grace and dignity, is what, I believe, planted the seeds for BADASS. She had been unfairly maligned for doing something that harmed no one, and she fought back against one of the largest pornographic distributors in the world for publishing her images – and WON. She didn’t allow this to ruin her life, in fact- she turned that trauma into something bigger and more meaningful, and came out of the storm stronger for it.

When my pictures were shared, i channeled Catherine. I said to myself, if she could handle this on such a national level, I could get through this. When the idea for BADASS was nothing more than an inkling, I called Catherine for inspiration. To this day, she is someone I look up to for inspiration, and I’m extremely lucky to have her in my life as both a friend and mentor.

Please, watch her TEDtalk, and hear her story. It’s a great one, and hopefully it inspires you to do big things, as Catherine has inspired me.

-Katelyn

BADASS- Year in Review

I sincerely hope all of our friends and allies had a happy holiday, and it’s time for our first annual “year in review”! As I sit and reflect on all of the amazing events, people, and opportunities 2018 has brought us, I only have one word to describe this past year- BADASS!

At the start of 2018, our little Facebook group had around 250 members- all victims of image abuse or trusted allies. In January and February, it took off, growing to 700 then 800, and in April, we broke the 1k mark. It’s continued to grow steadily since, and in the Facebook group alone, we have over 1600 victims of image abuse, raising their voices to create a change. And that’s just Facebook- there are BADASSes on twitter, Instagram, Reddit, tumblr, and a few other platforms. We are everywhere- 45 states, 13 countries, every gender, race, socioeconomic status, sexuality… as we knew, image abuse doesn’t have a label, and now we have the stats to back that up.
In 2018, we unveiled the WK program, a tool for victims to get notifications if their images appear on sites frequently used to share nudes without consent. We offer the basic service for free to BADASS members, and only charge $5 a month for the text message notification system. It’s like google alerts, but for image abuse. We also still have our “shreker”, though it’s being modified and retargeted. We hope to make any idiot who decides to run a website dedicated to NCP regret their decision, if only for the headaches having to clean up the mess we make.
2018 was an amazing year for BADASS publicity- we worked hard to find platforms to share our stories, and spread the word that resources are available for image abuse victims. I (Katelyn) went on Megan Kelly today to talk about BADASS, and was featured in several other national outlets with my cohorts Rachel Lamp, Kate Venable, Kelsey Bressler, and Elizabeth Ann. Mia Landsem has been making headlines in Norway with her work infiltrating and shutting down discord servers dedicated to NCP. Shainee Chalk has been telling her story in Canada, and advocating for BADASS up north. Several BADASSes have been speaking to the press in the UK, with Zoe Zozza coming forward with her experience involving the band “Moose Blood”, which resulted in them losing their spot on tour with Good Charlotte. BADASSes are raising their voices all over the world, and the media is catching on.
We had several big wins this year with legislation, working to bring a “revenge porn” bill to Ohio, and having it signed into law just a few days ago. Noelle Martin, BADASS-down-under, successfully completed a campaign to bring NCP laws to Western Australia. We are working with CCRI to help make the current laws in the US more enforceable, and are eyeing Montana and New York for our next legislative projects. We are still working on getting a federal bill introduced and in place, and I sincerely hope that when I write 2019s look back, I’m able to say that we accomplished that.
In June, we had a successful March Against Revenge porn in Pittsburgh, with the help of Leah Juliett and Belinda Berry, and we are excited to start planning another march next year in Cleveland. Details on that coming soon!
We had several notable events this year- from the BADASS brewhaha in youngstown, to “bowling, bands and BADASSes” in Cleveland. Both events will be happening again, and we were excited to see large numbers for both! Turns out, BADASSes know how to party!
In April, we had a very exciting surprise- anonib had been shut down, thanks to the the Politie in Netherlands. It was a huge relief to the thousands of us who had appeared on the site without our permission, and victims worldwide were celebrating the shuttering of this awful site! New ones have stepped up to replace that scourge on the internet, but haven’t reached the success or infamy as anonib, and we don’t foresee them ever getting to that point. The clear internet is safer thanks to everyone involved with deleting that site.
In the beginning of the year, we acquired our 501c3 nonprofit status, which allowed us to award tax write offs for donations, and apply for grants. We still haven’t found regular funding, and are relying on donations for our organizations survival, so if you have the ability, please further our mission by making a donation to https://www.gofundme.com/BADASSarmy

We can’t count how many non consensual images and videos we removed from the internet in 2018, but we estimate that it’s somewhere in the 5 figure range. That’s a lot less humiliation and exposure for victims, as well as a lot of relief and weight lifted.
We aided in dozens of arrests for NCP, telecommunications harassment, stalking, and child pornography, and have several very large cases awaiting completion. We continue to aid law enforcement in the collection of evidence and prosecution of internet sex crimes, and are working to give the police and investigators the tools and knowledge they need to ensure justice for those experiencing NCP.
In 2018, we began partnering with social media platforms and individual sites to help them keep their platforms free of image abuse. We’ve shared our findings, our experiences, and our ideas to several large social media platforms, and helped them reinforce and refine the protections they have in place to prevent NCP. We plan to continue this project, and gain the support and partnership of both social media giants and consensual pornography sites (hey pornhub, Twitter, Reddit, and YouTube- call us!)
2018 was pretty BADASS, by anyones definition. The growth our organization has seen is tremendous, but meager compared to the growth of each individual BADASS. The empowerment, lessons, and support we’ve seen this past year have ignited our passion, and motivated us to change to world- or at least, the internet.
And we have a feeling that 2019 will be even better, and more BADASS! We hope all of our friends and allies have a happy and safe new year, and stay tuned, because we are declaring right now that 2019 will be the “year of the BADASS!”

Voices of BADASS: Rachel Lamp

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

FAQ for my Revenge Porn Poster

Q. What is revenge porn?

Revealing or sexually explicit images or videos of a person posted on the Internet, typically by a former sexual partner, without the consent of the subject and in order to cause them distress or embarrassment.

In short: Posting nudes of someone online without their consent.

See also the definitions of: Stupid, Uncool, Criminal Behavior.

Q. Did I commit a crime?

Yes. It’s illegal to post naked photos of someone without their consent.

Consequences in your state:  

Your first offense is considered a misdemeanor (punishable with up to 1 year in jail and $1,000 fine).

Your second offense (yeah, we know about that one, too) is considered a third degree felony (punishable with up to 5 years in jail and a $5,000 fine).

Q. Am I entitled to a woman’s body? Even if we dated once?

Absolutely not. In fact I’d venture to say you’re lucky you were ever able to look at or enjoy her body.  Specifically relating to photographs of her body post-breakup: Sure, a person cannot sue to get their photos back after a break up (yet) but see the FAQ above in reference to posting those photos online without her consent.

It is not your right to share her body with other people without her consent. Notice the term HER in context with the term BODY.

VOCABULARY:

HER – Her is a possessive pronoun. This means that something following the term “her” belongs to that person. In context with BODY which follows the term “her” – the body belongs to HER.

CONSENT – (noun) permission for something to happen or agreement to do something. Remember, consent is freely given, activity specific, active and ongoing, can be revoked at ANY point.

***this also applies to women who post nudes of men or other women and men who post photos of other men. Basically: NO ONE IS ENTITLED TO ANYONE’S BODY. There, that wasn’t hard.

Q. I posted anonymously, that means it can’t be traced back to me right?

No. Chances are it’s being traced back to you right now, or already has been.

Q. I used an old photo from years ago LOL she’ll never figure out it was me.

Pretty sure she knows. See above.

Q. Does posting on Anon-IB or other revenge porn forums make me a cool guy?

If by cool guy you mean a complete loser with no productive or fulfilling actual life.. Then sure, you’re probably the coolest guy.

Q. Does posting revenge porn make me look like I am insecure?

I think it probably solidifies the fact that you’re insecure. Before you posted people could probably already tell you hated yourself, but after, it’s really obvious that you need constant attention and validation and you’re willing to do just about anything to get it.  

Q. Is my mom going to get in trouble if I used her internet to post naked photos of someone without consent?

This is simultaneously gross, sad, and pathetic. But yes, you’ve made your mother vulnerable to legal action because you couldn’t get over your need to hurt someone or take advantage of trust they once gave you.

Q. Will women trust getting naked in front of me again?

Well, you sound like you have some serious control and insecurity issues so I’m not sure why they would anyway but my bet is that your “secret”, “anonymous” internet activities will probably be a deterrent.

Q. Will posting revenge porn affect my business?

Getting arrested and paying heavy fines might affect your business life, yes. I suppose you can keep trying your luck and find out for yourself?

Q. Did I hurt her by posting her topless photo online?

If that’s what you were looking for… yes you did. You made her feel unsafe, insecure, and ashamed. You made her feel like she had no agency over her body. You made her second guess herself and have made it more difficult for her to trust others.  For five months she woke up everyday feeling awful about herself, she cried daily, and couldn’t understand why someone would do something like this. She looked over her shoulder worried everyday because she didn’t know right away who the “anonymous” people posting and commenting about her body were. She didn’t want to go out in public in fear that the people she saw were people that were commenting on the photo.  You made her fear for losing her job. You made her experience the shame of her family finding out her naked photos were online.

BUT I think the one thing you’re forgetting though is who you’re dealing with. As much as you hurt her now and in the past – this girl is a badass. Everything you hated about her before (her intelligence, her drive, her voice) has just gotten stronger. She was always a fighter before, but now she’s part of an army.. And we’re coming for you.

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: Char Hill’s Story

We are happy to share the story of Char Hill next.  

 

Char wants you to know that she was 45 when she took and sent the nudes that were later used to exploit her online. She wants you to know that age does not discriminate, and we are so thankful she made this point because that is one of the greatest myths about revenge porn, image abuse, and/or NCII: People want to think that this is something that only happens to “stupid teenagers” but the fact is, that’s just not true. 

 

Char, a Revenge Porn Victim, and her Dogs
Char’s dogs helped her through the darkest time of her life.

Char was brave enough to share her story for a recent hearing of Ohio HB497. We are proud to have her on our side.  Here is her testimony:

 

(Please note: If you are struggling with thoughts of harming yourself or others, this story may be triggering for you.)

 


It was evening, December 6, 2015 sitting in the comfort of my home when I received a text message of myself, nude. I was horrified. I was deeply humiliated. And emotionally damaged.
It was a forwarded image meant for shock value from my ex-boyfriend’s buddy. My ex was sending my photo without my consent to his friends, his coworkers, his basketball team and a friend of mine who is also a pastor.

 

My ex threatened that he was going to paper the vehicles in my church parking lot with my nude image. I had to tell the church and meet with the security team in which they kept a heavy look out. I was mortified. I immediately went to the police and was treated like it was my fault. I was told there was nothing they could do. A few attorneys along with Marion City prosecutor said “I know these 2 men are pigs, but there is no law against distributing nude photos in the state of Ohio”.

 

 

I was sick to my stomach. I was persistent to be heard and went back to the police station several times. I just so happened to get connected with a female officer who took me seriously. Sadly, the only retribution I could sustain was a telecommunications charge and a civil protection order. Very little punishment for sending me into a horrifying downward spiral into a mental health relapse hell.

 

I endured a severe recurrent episode of Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. With ongoing (but without current intent) suicidal tendencies. I knew I had to get help when the thought of death was a peaceful thought, a release, a sigh of letting go. Being with Jesus sounded immensely more comforting than staying here with worldly people.

 

My urge to flight outweighed my fighting capabilities. I’m too exhausted to continue to fight. I checked myself into partial hospitalization where I spent over 4 months trying to make sense of it all. During my 4 month stint at Marion General Hospital Partial Hospitalization Program I endured what I describe as an “out of body”relapse. I had made it through the program and was now in relapse prevention. I was dealing with months of ongoing court issues that pertained to pressing criminal charges on the offender.

 

was triggered every time I had a court appearance, whether the perpetrator was present or not, or meeting with any agency that was helping me pursue justice. I walked in to relapse prevention somber, empty-handed, and feeling depleted.

 

With tears running down my face, I told the counselors someone was going to die. Either me, the coward of a man who did this to me, or both. My body was sitting in the chair but the words coming out of my mouth were that of a stranger and inaudible. I had so much confusion and noise in my head.
I can see the counselors looking at each other with great concern but I didn’t understand why. What was I saying that was so fearful? I vaguely remember them whispering to me if I was willing to surrender my weapon to someone trustworthy that would safely lock it away from me.

 

Somewhere between protecting myself and my household, became a very scary idealization of permanently ending the nightmare I was living. I am very thankful I was in a safe place with trained professionals to defuse a potentially horrific situation and immediately took appropriate action which placed me back into PHP for another month.

 

This heinous act of Revenge Porn has to stop. These monsters need to be held accountable for their actions. My photo was taken out of trust, loyalty and love. I am a beautiful woman inside and out. I should not be shamed for feeling attractive or being sexual. And it is not ok to share my intimate photo without my consent, period

 

 

Well said, Char.

 

As you can see from her story, Revenge Porn is something that affected every facet of her life. It’s important to take this crime seriously as the consequences of this act can be devastating to victims and their families. We are glad that Char got help when she did and she is brave for being open and sharing what happened surrounding her mental health, as talking about it is so often stigmatized.

 

We asked her to delve deeper into the mental health side of things that she wrote about in her testimony, in hopes that it may help someone else who is struggling with thoughts of suicide or harming others. Read on if you are interested, but please know that the following passage may be triggering for some:

 

I’ve struggled since my late teens with Major Depression Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and in my mid 20’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A lot of people would never know this about me because I mask very well! I’m bubbly, cheerful, silly and appear to be happy. 

It took me years to grow into my voice, and now that I have, I will not be quiet! With recent events of a heinous act of revenge pornography by someone I trusted and loved, I slowly fell into a horrifying mental health relapse. I have had a severe recurrent episode of depression, anxiety and PTSD with ongoing (but without current intent) suicidal tendencies.

This battle is not meant to be fought alone! With hopes to save lives and educate people- the most important thing you can do is tell someone how you are feeling! This persons betrayal of loyalty sent me into a horrifying downward spiral, into a mental health relapse hell.

I knew I had to reach out but I didn’t want to bother or worry my loved ones. I am thankful for these two friends for their unbiased support in this particular situation. But after months passed, I was still in a very dark place. PTSD can occur at the time of trauma or months, even years, after the trauma occurs. Trauma is very different to every individual- don’t judge. PTSD is not “what’s wrong with me” it’s “what happened to me”.

I knew I had to get help when the thought of death was a peaceful thought, a release, a “sigh” of letting go. Being with Jesus sounded immensely more comforting than staying here with worldly people. I can remember being on a flight, looking out the window & seeing the most angelic pathway of clouds that would lead me to a lovely eternity to heaven. I closed my eyes, leaned my seat back, and was at total peace with pleading God to please take this jet down. And when we landed being so very disappointed because I had to “go on” and put on my fake smile.

Let’s get back to this, I want to take a moment to explain what “fight or flight” means to me…

Over the last year I’ve been to Florida twice, Atlanta, Ft. Wayne, Kentucky, Las Vegas and Seattle. Sounds like a wonderful year of vacationing doesn’t it? What it really meant was escaping my demons, chaos, confusion and pain. Spending money I shouldn’t have with no worries. Don’t get me wrong, there were some great times and I’m very blessed to have friends and family help to get me away, distract me from my turmoil. But I also had unrealistic thoughts and plans as to where else I could escape to and not tell anyone.

Maybe check in with loved ones occasionally.

I would joke about loading up my two beloved German Shepherds and just drive until I ran out of funds and couldn’t drive anymore. I was certain we could live under a pier by the ocean (my only concern was how much I do not like fish), or in the wilderness, or for some reason… San Antonio stuck in my mind. I would tell people this and laugh but on the inside it was very real to me. The urge to “Flight” outweighed my “Fighting” capabilities. I’m too exhausted to continue to fight…

Back to the suicidal planning… The more places I went, the stronger my urges became. I’m not sure why. I guess because all these beautiful places that God created seemed so tranquil. While my friends and family were admiring wonderful clay-colored canyons, and majestic waterfalls, and the thickest green forests and breathtaking mountains, I was soaking in the serene Peace of knowing where I could drive back to and miss a winding curve into a sunlit canyon or freely fall into a fierce current of a violent waterfall. I didn’t want my loved ones to know my death was intentional. I hid my tears. Do you know how hard it is to choke back a melt down? I’m mastering that emotion, too.

After my last “vacation” I returned home and checked myself into Marion General Hospital Partial Hospitalization Program where I spent 5 months trying to make sense of it all.

Now comes the stigma…Ugh!! I keep rehashing why is my mental health any different than someone famous? They are well known, talented, wealthy, and admired. It’s such a shame, and considered a waste of talent if a star commits suicide. So why does society look down on the “average Joe”? I am a giver, a great mother of two amazing sons, I am a server for Jesus, I am loved, I cherish my family and friends, I am humble and I matter too! I’m not “crazy” or “oh she’s bi-polar”. Stop it! I’ve been through some stuff. I am wired differently.

My mind is overloaded and racing rampant. I need compassion and understanding. Just like you may have a broken bone, a broken leg. You can’t walk, you need help to get up. I need help to get up differently than you. Are you ashamed of your broken leg? I am not ashamed of my brokenness. Treatment plans are not that different. You go to physical therapy and tell them your difficulties, you will learn how to cope with your diagnosis, your struggles, and may need medication for pain, balance, infections, etc..I go to counseling, I give my symptoms, I tell my hurts. I may need medication to cope and manage just like you. We need to be brave and Stomp out the Stigma…

I mentioned earlier that I was asked to surrender my weapon to someone trustworthy who would safely lock it away from me. You see, for months I slept with a 9mm under my pillow, pepper spray under the other pillow and a steel bar at arm’s length placed under my bed.

It became surprisingly comfortable sleeping with a gun under my head. But somewhere between protecting myself and my household, became a very scary idealization of permanently ending the nightmare I was living. I am thankful God was with me that afternoon, as He is everyday, and placed me in a safe place with trained professionals to defuse a potentially horrific situation and immediately took appropriate action which placed me back into PHP for another month.

I’m not where I want to be but thank God I’m not where I was! I thank God for giving me grace and mercy and saving me from myself. For carrying me when I couldn’t stand, for the discernment to get to the hospital. I’m learning to set boundaries, recognizing my triggers and avoid them if possible, to run like hell when I see or feel a “red flag”, and give myself permission to slow down and say no and take “me” time. This is not an easy task for me. I’m educating myself and loved ones on my diagnosis. I’m trying to eat healthier (yea right lol), exercise, and use coping skills. I’ve become very active in NAMI. They have helped me be accountable in maintaining my mental health in which I am passionate about advocating and educating.

I have a safety plan in place. I promise not to mask and tell the truth when I’m struggling. Most importantly I promise to never break the hearts of my sons, my mother. my sisters, my brother, my grandmother, and the rest of my family and friends and my God  For I am the daughter of the most high King .

 

If you are considering suicide, help is available.  Call 1-800-273-8255 to talk to someone.

 

If you are in a life-threatening emergency or are an immediate danger to others, please call 911.

How the ‘Fappening’ Changed the Way We View Victims of Revenge Porn

How the Fappening Changed the way we view revenge porn

By now, we’ve all heard of “the fappening”, whether you know it by its Internet given nickname or not- several times in the past few years, hackers gained access to several celebrities Apple accounts, and publicly posted their private nude photos. Victims ranged from huge stars like Jennifer Lawrence and athletes like Hope Solo, to some obscure reality tv stars and models.

For many people, this was their first foray into the world of revenge porn- it brought a global spotlight to a practice that had, previously, been full of victim blaming and shame. When it happened to so many celebrities, it was like the world finally said “ok, now we are going to do something about this!”. Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that Vanessa Hudgens was forced to issue a PUBLIC APOLOGY for having her nudes leaked without consent, so the fact that people were finally starting to see the practice as abhorrent is a pretty big step.

The perpetrator behind The Fappening was arrested, however, evidence of his crimes is still passed around on hundreds of websites, dozens of forums. Many people downloaded the images and videos, and they’re uploaded to different forums and sites every day, victimizing the subject over and over again. And thats just for those specific celebrity  pictures- this happens to people across the world on a daily basis, knowing that at any given moment, countless people are seeing them naked without their consent. It’s maddening.

We are asked every day how people can be BADASS allies, outside of donating (seriously though, please donate- we make no money off of this, everything is put toward helping victims, and we help dozens everyday) and the easiest answer is this: don’t participate in culture that leads to things like the fappening. Don’t look up leaked nude images of celebrities or regular people, no matter how tempted you may be to do so! Call out others on problematic behavior- if your friend says to check out this nude that so and so sent him, tell him no, and ask him to delete it. Speak out against behaviors that victimize others, and believe victims when they tell you what they’ve been through. Make yourself a safe person to talk about these things with, and don’t break peoples trust by sharing what was said. These are things that everyone can do to fight back against revenge porn.

To the victims of the Fappening- we are sorry that this happened to you. To the countless victims of image abuse around the world- you are not alone, and you can join the BADASS army to ensure that this doesn’t happen to anyone else.

To people like Vanessa Hudgens, Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, Catherine Bosley, and the thousands of others that went through this before the world understood what revenge porn was and how awful it is: I cannot express my condolences for how you were treated as a victim. What happened to you was not okay, and the way you were treated as the VICTIM of a crime is mind blowing. Thank you for handling your situation with grace and holding your head high, and thank you for setting an example for future victims. No one can fix what has been done to you, but know that what you went through was not in vain, because now society is finally ready to start fighting.

-Katelyn Bowden, CEO of BADASS