Helping you get through tough times

Being a victim of revenge porn

In February 2016, my world turned upside down. On a normal night out with a friend, I learned of something that has irrevocably changed my outlook on the world…

blurry computer screenStaring at my friend’s phone screen, I saw only an enlarged advertisement, but when he urged me to look closer, I felt my heart rate increase.

I could hear the blood rushing in my ears. I couldn’t fully process what I was seeing. I knew that it was me, but beyond that, I had no understanding.

Recognising my body

My friend told me that his friend had seen it, had recognised my tattoos, and so sent it to him. I felt my eyes drawn back to the phone screen where I took in exactly what I was seeing.

I was looking at a profile on a porn site, a profile that contained explicit photos and an explicit videos, along with a description of a 25 year-old female from Dublin who was “up for anything”.

It was me. There were naked photos of my body, and a video of me having sex with my ex-boyfriend.

My whole body began to shake, my friend offered me a drink which I refused before running to the toilets where I was violently sick. I had a hundred questions, all of which my friend struggled to answer. My ex had promised to delete the photos we had consensually sent to each other years previous.

Without consent

The video though, I hadn’t known of its existence. He had secretly filmed us, without my knowledge or consent, and had uploaded it all to a porn site.

He had taken on the persona of the woman in the photos and the video, and pretended to be me on the website, responding to explicit, lustful comments with what seemed to be an unparalleled eagerness. On the trip home, I struggled to speak. I could barely breathe.

When I got home, I gave in and watched the video. That’s when the deluge started, it was as if a dam had broken. I couldn’t control the cascade of tears streaming down my face, my vision blurred and my body began to shake uncontrollably. I slept in fits and bursts, with everything replaying over and over in my head.

Taking action

The next morning, my anger hit. I refused to stand idly by and do nothing. So, I took screenshots of the profile and brought them to my local Garda station, where I was greeted with sympathy and understanding.

The Garda I dealt with was outraged on my behalf and assured me they would take care of the whole situation. I felt relieved something was going to be done, that I wasn’t alone in this. However, when I went back days later, I was informed that what my ex had done wasn’t illegal.

Removal and monitoring

Revenge porn isn’t illegal in Ireland. It felt like the floor had been ripped out from underneath me. I was a victim of a crime, and the Gardai couldn’t help. I was furious, but I was more disappointed in how archaic the Irish justice system is.

The Garda that I was working with sent an email on my behalf to the porn site requesting they remove the offending content on my behalf. Thankfully, they took down the photos and the video.

However, my ex re-posted the content the following day, and the website didn’t monitor it. I was forced to make a decision, either leave the content on the internet for the world to see, or confront my ex-boyfriend and ask him to remove it from the internet and delete all of his files, I went with the latter option.

Confrontation with my ex

Confronting him is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. The last time I saw him was in 2012 when we broke up. We had been together for a year, but when he became abusive, I ended the relationship. So seeing him again wasn’t something that I took lightly.

I arrived at his parent’s house on a Sunday afternoon with my parents for support. His mam invited us in, and called him down. At first, he was happy to see me. His grin turned into feigned confusion when I told him I knew about the website.

Claiming ignorance

He claimed it wasn’t him, and he didn’t know what I was talking about. That’s when my dad chimed in. He can be very intimidating when he wants to me. He threatened my ex with barristers and prosecution, said that we had proof it was him.

That was when he broke down, admitted to it. His mam started to cry, the pain and distress was evident in her eyes. When I asked why he’d done it, all I received was a non-committal “I don’t know”. Thankfully, he did erase absolutely everything in front of me, which his mam double checked that night and text to confirm that to me.

Campaign for internet crimes

I resolved to campaign for a new legislation that would protect the victims of internet crimes. I went to meet with a local TD and told him my story, who vowed to fight my case in the Dáil and push for a bill to be introduced.

Unfortunately, he has yet to do anything. I was distraught, it seemed that absolutely nobody could help me. That’s when I decided to get a solicitor. The only proof I had that this had taken place was the screenshots that I had had the foresight to take.

Lack of Irish legislation for revenge porn

My solicitor was outraged by the lack of legislation, and asked me to write out another statement, but this time with the full background information of my relationship with my ex, as well as the aftermath of finding out.

With this information, his PR team contacted a national newspaper who interviewed me.

Media coverage

Their article, which gave me the pseudonym “Jane”, garnered a lot of attention both from the public, as well as other media outlets. I received invitations for interviews from both a radio and a television show. Both of which will use the same pseudonym, in order to protect my anonymity.

However, hopefully the combination of all three interviews will help in changing the law in order to protect the victims of revenge porn.

This experience has been completely traumatising. I found myself facing constant nightmares and anxiety attacks.

Keeping active, and forcing myself to accept that I am a victim, that I have done nothing wrong, they’re what are keeping me going.

Self-discovery after a traumatic experience

You really do discover who you really are when you go through a traumatic experience. I am a victim of a cybercrime, but that is not all I am. I am a fighter.

When it looks like there’s no way out of a horrific situation, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help, because only the brave are strong enough to admit that they can’t do it alone.

What can I do now?

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