I never imagined it would happen to me. 

When you read stories about sexual abuse- or any type of crime - you never think that it could happen to you. You feel sympathy for the victim of the crime, but you never picture yourself becoming a victim, or consider how it might affect your life. 

Finding out

In August 2015, I found out that I was a victim of image-based sexual abuse, or “Revenge Porn”. A friend told me that somebody was using intimate photos of me and my first name to create a fetish account on Twitter. From there, this person had also shared links to a dozen other fake social media profiles using my image, including amateur porn websites.

At first, I was in shock. I didn’t know what was happening, nor could I understand why somebody had done this to me. I called the police and tried to gather as much evidence as possible, as they had suggested. This meant going through each of the links and taking screenshots of every website or profile page that had my images on them. It was horrifying and humiliating. 

Underage images

I soon noticed that a few images were very old. I was 23 at the time, but some of these pictures were from almost a decade ago – ranging back to when I was about 15 years old. Though at first I couldn’t believe it, I quickly realised that only one person could have such a collection of images of me.

This person had known me since I was 14. We had met online through a music forum and regularly chatted through instant messaging. As a teenager, I was very excited about this online relationship with an older man. I thought that it was cool to be speaking to and flirting with a 21-year-old.

Online grooming

He was an on/off friend for many years, right up until I found out about the image-based sexual abuse. Throughout our friendship we had intermittent flirtations, though we never were in a relationship, nor did we ever have a physical relationship.

It was only after the image-based sexual abuse that I realised I had also been a victim of online grooming. This man had regularly asked me for intimate photos of myself, pestered me if I had not spoken to him for a while, and emotionally blackmailed me into talking to him repeatedly. 

The effect on my life

Both kinds of abuse have affected my life in disastrous ways. I quit my job because I was severely depressed and began to suffer from extreme anxiety. I moved cities to try to run away from my problems (which didn’t help) and I haven’t been able to hold down a job since. I have very low confidence and self-esteem.

The police case was very hard to deal with, and over the past years I have faced a lot of victim-blaming. It took me a long time to stop blaming myself for what has happened. I only wish that I had turned to somebody earlier, or realised that what was going on with this older man was wrong.

Currently I am trying to rebuild my life. I tell my story to help others and educate people on the heinous effects that these types of crimes have on victims.

My advice

“It may feel like it, the people around you may believe it, even those who are supposed to be helping you (the police, for example) may think it, but this is not your fault in any shape or form. You did nothing to deserve being abused this way. “




 

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