I’m not sure what the worst part has been. Was it the victim-blaming, the knowing that I will never have control over those images ever again, the tarnished reputation, or the realization that I was groomed throughout the majority of my teenage years, into my early twenties?
There is a lot that is misunderstood when it comes to “Revenge Porn”. There’s the opinion that there must be some sort of ‘revenge’ involved, which is simply not true. In many cases, including mine, there is no revengeful motivations behind them and besides, what does it matter if there was? Nobody deserves to be abused and humiliated in this way, regardless of any previous “wrong-doing” that they may or may not have done.
The distress that image-based sexual abuse has on a victim is an equally important and misunderstood part of this heinous crime. When I found out that my images were online, my first reaction was shock. I couldn’t believe that somebody I had trusted for so long would do this to me.
I then quickly fell into a deep and dark depression, followed shortly after with intense anxiety and social anxiety. I used alcohol to blur how I was feeling, which yep you guessed it, made me feel a lot worse. I started eating less as I thought I didn’t deserve food. I partied harder than usual, making me feel like I had more control over my body if I was the one deciding to have sex with as many people as I wanted. On the other side of the spectrum, I isolated myself from my friends, embarrassed and ashamed of what had happened to me.
Soon enough, I had to leave my job because of my very poor mental health. I spent a month or so of my life in bed. I moved 400 miles north, with no job and few savings. I haven’t worked in one place for longer than a month in 3 years. I’m more broke than I have ever been. Only now, 3 years later, am I about to start counselling sessions.
I’m grateful that at this point in my recovery that I wish to help other victims by speaking up and raising awareness. This stems from my need to make something good come out of this horrible abuse. I don’t want to let what happened to me define me in a negative way. I want to take control of what I can and change the narrative of my story. Instead of letting image-based sexual abuse hang over me like a dark secret that I should be too ashamed to tell, I will instead continue to bring awareness to this horrible crime, and hopefully let other victims know that you can rebuild your life, your confidence and yourself.
PS, you can check out Lauren’s blog here: