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!”

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)”

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.**