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.

Megyn Kelly Today – Katelyn Gets a Word In

“I always tell women- be very careful. Be very careful you know, with the naked selfies and sending them…

“Be very careful about sending the naked selfies. Even a bikini is sexy too, and in some cases, sexier!! It’s not your fault, but just a word to the wise: be smart and don’t do it”.

Those quotes are how Megyn Kelly opened and ended her interview with me regarding the entire movement started by BADASS to eradicate revenge porn. Sure, in between those quotes, we were able to get the word out about our mission and letting victims know there is a resource available for this, but it was sandwiched between two very questionable statements that go against what we stand for as an organization.

Please don’t get me wrong- I was incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to speak on such a large platform at all, and I’m thankful that Megyn Kelly was willing to bring me on air to share my story- but between the victim blaming and the focus on my personal victimization, I was barely able to talk about how I, and so many others, rose above our experiences to start a movement that has the potential to change the world (or at least, the internet). Megyn’s comments weren’t meant to be victim blaming, and I’m sure she didn’t intend them to be, and we hear problematic statements like that frequently in our work- but once someone learns more about image abuse and how it works, they usually feel very differently. Megyn’s statements were made out of innocence- she is a very educated and smart woman, however, she just hasn’t learned much about the topic of Revenge Porn, which is something we hope to change by speaking out.

When I heard I would be appearing on Megyn Kelly, I started planning how to make the best use of my short time on a nationwide platform. I wanted to talk about how awful the term “Revenge Porn” is- it implies that the victim did something to deserve revenge, and “porn” describes it as purposely sexual and implying consent. I wanted to start changing the conversation towards using “Image Abuse”, because it covers the variety of crimes we see with our victims- hidden cameras, upskirt images, photoshopped pictures, deepfakes, and, yes, photos posted by a jilted ex. I wanted to start changing the way people view “Revenge Porn” and see it for the violation that it is.

I wanted to urge people to write to their lawmakers in every state, to ask them to introduce a bill banning Image Abuse, or amend the ones they currently have to make them more enforceable. I thought with Megyn Kelly’s legal background, she would love the chance to talk about how an “intent to harm” clause is problematic, and get her input on how bills should be worded to avoid violating the first amendment. I know that Mary Anne Franks would be the BEST choice to help explain how that works, but perhaps Megyn Kelly could bring that argument to national attention.

I wanted to tell her about the other amazing activists working to end revenge porn on a global scale- about Leah Juliett, who not only has raised awareness with their March Against Revenge Porn organization, but also works as an ambassador and advocate for GLAAD, educating people on the rising trend of using the internet to shame marginalized populations, while also fighting for trans rights and for trans voices to be heard. Or about Catherine Bosley, a news anchor who experienced image abuse before the term Revenge Porn was even a thing, and who successfully sued hustler for printing her image without permission. She had been fired from her position in Youngstown Ohio due to the leak, only to rise above and get a job on camera in a bigger, better market. Now, she is working to share her story, and inspire so many others to rise above the victimization of image abuse.

I didn’t really want to talk about my own personal victimization in any sort of detail- that’s not as important to me as telling the other stories that need heard. The 15 year old who was blackmailed with photoshopped pictures, until she finally gave into her blackmailers demands and stripped on camera, while crying, for the purpose of him uploading the video to every chan site that would let him. The woman who took pictures at 19 for a college boyfriend, only to have them sent to everyone she knew while she was married and pregnant ten years later.  The woman in Iowa whose husband had put multiple hidden cameras in her home, who didn’t realize she had even been being filmed until she filed for divorce and found her pictures, hundreds of them, scattered across the internet. I wanted to tell their stories, and talk about how they overcame their victimization and are fighting to ensure that no one experiences what they did. I never wanted a national platform so I could throw a pity party- I wanted to show the world how strong and powerful the human spirit is, and how those people refused to be reduced to a series of pictures online, and instead, used that pain productively. My story isn’t what’s important- what matters is what we’ve accomplished with that story.

Since starting BADASS less than a year ago, we’ve gotten thousands of images removed from websites that are dedicated to image abuse. We’ve assisted police and victims in cases that resulted in arrests, and we help LEOs and investigators learn how to navigate the websites, collect usable evidence, and we provide victim support in every step they must go through to get justice. We’ve talked to people who have gone through this and felt hopeless and suicidal, and made them feel empowered and gave them reasons to keep going. We’ve made over a thousand people know that they aren’t alone in their pain, and we’ve educated countless people on various aspects of image abuse. We are developing an educational program for teens that covers more than just sharing nudes- we want to teach them about how to set boundaries, about consent, and how to break up and respect your partner. We’ve connected to tech giants to help them keep non-consensual images off of their platforms, and work with developers to create programs to prevent images from being shared, as well as programs for victims and law enforcement to find and remove photos while collecting evidence.

Antigone Davis, the head of global safety for Facebook (and one of my personal heroes) said that we are “activists that speak engineer”, and i thought that was not only fitting, but one of the highest compliments I could hear. We aren’t just a “support group”  or an organization dedicated to spreading awareness by exploiting their stories,-we are working together and creating so many changes to the evilness of online exploitation.

Basically, we do a lot. But you know what we don’t do? Slut shame. Victim blame. Tell victims that it’s their fault for taking the images in the first place. We don’t believe that there should be shame in sex, nor should we be ashamed of our bodies. To us, this is a consent issue- a human rights issue. We believe that the problem doesn’t lie in the pictures themselves, but in their use as a weapon to shame and harm us. We support the right of nude models and sex workers to not have their work pirated on sites they didn’t consent to host their work. We support teens who were coerced into sending a nude to someone who they thought really liked them.

And we do all of that at no cost to the victim- Our “staff”, consisting of me (Katelyn Bowden, CEO and HBIC), my cofounder and COO, Belinda Berry, our legal aid and Board President, Kate Venable, CSO and tech guru, Rachel Lamp- along with countless untitled volunteers- work tirelessly to juggle all the needs of our organization, as well as helping victims on a personal level, are all unpaid- we have no funding outside of donations, and we don’t feel it’s right to charge victims to help fix what someone else did to them**. I don’t know of any other organizations run purely by volunteers that are accomplishing nearly as much as BADASS is, and that’s something that deserves attention.

These are the things I wanted to talk to Megyn kelly about, and instead, I got a few words in about a cause I’m extremely passionate about, sandwiched between problematic statements.

If I’m ever given a national platform again (which, after publishing this blog post, is questionable, but i felt this was so necessary), I hope to cover these topics and more. I hope that someone out there wants to give us an opportunity to truly start a conversation about the work that needs to be done to end revenge porn/image abuse.

Because we know, no matter how careful you are- no matter how “smart” you are, this can happen to anyone. And we think people ought to know that.

Watch the full video here.

**At BADASS we believe in offering support at minimal or no cost to victims. Our goal is to teach victims how to empower and advocate for themselves so that they can take hold of their story. The nature of image abuse allows those who have been exposed to be revictimized. By providing the steps to remove content it aims to empower and remove that helpless feeling that often comes with this type of abuse. While we pride ourselves on offering services for free, we do respect and understand the need for services, especially legal services, to charge. By being a free resource, we can get people immediate help by eliminating that as a barrier.**

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:

Introducing a Revenge Porn Law in Ohio

We have worked with Senator Joe Schiavone to introduce a bill criminalizing revenge porn in the state of Ohio. It would make the crime a misdemeanor, and include protections for victims, as well as the possibility of civil actions against the posters. We are working hard to see this bill come to fruition, and we hope to do this in all states that currently have no revenge porn laws on the ballot.

 

Camaraderie Through Tragedy

Since starting this group a month ago, I’ve witnessed the most beautiful transformations. Women who had been exposed for years, shy and scared, became strong when they discovered that they weren’t as alone and powerless as they thought. Women who were staunchly anti-feminist embraced the empowerment that comes with surrounding yourself with other strong women. We have found a comraderie in our brokenness, and built friendship from a platform of pain. When we talk about “GIRL POWER”, it doesn’t sound like a cheesy Spice World movie bit. We know true girl power, because we see the damaged build each other up as they heal.

We see the 40 year old mom from Ohio discuss trust issues to the 17 year old tumblr Girl from the U.K.- to most, they have nothing in common, but they’ve both been victimized the same way, and there is a bond in shared trauma that is hard to explain. When the battered wife from Kentucky comforts the Canadian woman who was called “fat” on the message boards (*i don’t even KNOW why this hurts me so bad. These guys are obviously scumbags.), you can’t deny the power within womanhood. The power to heal ourselves in the process of helping others.

Within our ever growing group, we have Lawyers, Doctors, Stay-at-Home moms, and Dominatrixes. We have bartenders and news anchor and authors and actresses and retail workers and teachers. We have men (yes, we accept men, on a  very limited basis), women, and non-binary folk as well. Gay people, straight people, white people, black people, brown people, rich, poor, republican, democrat, addict, counselor, single moms, grandmothers…. the only thing we have in common is that we were exposed, without our permission, for men to objectify, sexualize, and judge.

And witnessing everyday, these women using one another’s broken parts to fix themselves, and healing and growing and discovering- it’s by far more beautiful than anything that could be found on one of the websites featuring our bodies.

And that’s what these men fail to understand- they thought they had exposed us, hurt us, or maybe they just wanted to have power over us. But our beauty in womanhood lies not with our breasts or bottoms, the true beauty in womanhood is strength. Resiliency. And the fires and destruction left in her path when she decides to fight back. And maybe, because of what we are doing, the internet will finally be able to see that destruction instead of just focusing on her naked body.

 

Help Us Stop AnonIB

https://www.gofundme.com/help-us-to-shut-down-anonib

AnonIB is an anonymous image hosting site, where they actively encourage posting of “wins”- slang for nude photos of women without their permission. Although they don’t outright say they allow underage photos posted to their sites, the banner at the top of every page features preteens in various states of undress, and they are slow to remove photos of women who were as young as 13 when the photos were taken.

The photos are acquired through a variety of ways: sometimes they were shared with a trusted partner. Sometimes they are hacked from iCloud accounts or Facebook messages. They’ve also been acquired through catfishing, theft, or even taken while the subject has no idea she’s being photographed. The comments attached to the photos shame the victim- Calling her names, or revealing her contact information, links to social media accounts or where she works. It creates a very serious danger for the victim, and needs to be stopped.

We are working to hire a lawyer to file a federal class action lawsuit against anonIB and all associated parties on behalf of the victims. Since the website is hosted overseas, Its a complicated court battle, but with the amount of victims and evidence we have compiled, we believe it is possible. There has never been a group like ours before, not in size nor in determination. In little over a month, we have grown to over 300 victims, from the US, Canada, the U.K. And Australia. We are raising our voices to protest this injustice, but we need your help. As Allies, you can send a clear message that this is unacceptable. Thank you!