Lauren Evans: Naked Selfies are Everywhere

selfie-931908_960_720Naked selfies are everywhere. Kim Kardashian posted them and got both praise and criticism, starting a huge feminist debate that hung around the internet for several days. Chelsea Handler recently posted one to celebrate Reese Witherspoon’s birthday. It has become acceptable to be naked on the internet.

Unless that decision was made by somebody else for you. Unless that picture was meant for one person’s eyes only. Unless that photo has been used against you.

In August 2015, I found out that I was a victim of what is most commonly known as ‘Revenge Porn.’ If you’re not sure what it is, let me introduce you to one of the worst corners of the internet; ‘Revenge Porn’ is the sharing and publicizing of images with the intention to embarrass. Most commonly it is the act of a former partner who sees fit to share your images that you never thought in your scariest nightmares would be shared.

My experience with it was not the usual ‘Revenge Porn’ occurrence. I found out about it in 2015, but it had started 3 years prior. My friend texted me a screenshot of a Twitter account with my pictures all over it – yet it was not mine. The account had several links in the bio for a lot of photo-driven social media websites, all with my first name and my personal photos. It also included some of the most disgusting porn sites I had ever seen. I was everywhere.

Going through the images was tough – I could hardly bare to look and discover more, but I had to keep going in order to gather evidence for my case officer.

I was able to guess who had done this to me from the age of the photos. In a large proportion of these photos, I was under the age of 18, which was something that sparked the police’s interest greatly. There was only one guy that would have a collection of images of my naive self.

This person was somebody who, up until August 2015, I considered a trusted friend. We met online and had a brief cyber romance. We stayed in touch for years after that, and throughout those years of friendship, some flirting sparked every now and again. This resulted in me sharing with him quite a collection of selfies.

For reasons I still don’t know, and don’t see much point in finding out, this guy uploaded my images to porn sites, encouraging others to share them and to write revolting things about me. The comments were mostly of an incestual nature. His prodding had inspired somebody else to take my images and create all of the social media accounts. This someone is still unknown to me.

The things that pained me the most were the lack of control and the lack of sympathy. My case officer victim-shamed me at first, which was a huge shock to me. Colleagues and friends were not sure how to react to something like this, so it was difficult to turn to them for support when I truly needed it. Some of them tried to make jokes – jokes that felt incredibly inappropriate at the time – though I know that they had no ill intentions. This alongside with the realization that I would never be able to fully delete all of my pictures was what caused me to spiral into depression. For three years these images had been online and there was no way of knowing how many people had saved them to their personal computers; that was something I just have to live with.

I felt so low from this experience that one day while I was driving home from work, I thought if I were to just swerve right now, it would all be finished and I wouldn’t have to deal with all this shame anymore. I wouldn’t have to feel anything. The depression was and still is a lot harder to deal with than I thought, but having since moved away from home for a fresh start, I’m starting to feel better.

If there is somebody reading this who is going through something similar, please realize that it is not your fault, and you will be able to move on from this. There are people who can help, such as the Revenge Porn Helpline (UK), who are amazing at getting photos removed, and the Queen Mary Legal Advice Centre, who will provide free legal advice for you.

Many people take naked photos nowadays, and it is not their fault that their trust was broken by somebody else. This is not a punishment for being ‘promiscuous’. This is not anybody’s fault except the person who did this to you.

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