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Real Life Revenge Porn

Real Life Revenge Porn

By Kate Balestrieri, Psy.D., CSAT-S
Executive Director & Co-Founder
Triune Therapy Group

Real life revenge porn.

*Trigger Warning: Explicit Language & Sexual Content. This is a true survivor account, though it has been edited for clarity and all names and identifying information have been disguised.

“Are you sitting down?” he asked. I was, and felt my heart leap into my throat. What is this about? Nothing good ever follows that question. I’ve never seen him so stern. “I’ve been having an affair. Her name is Molly.” Liar. Fucking Liar. It can’t be true. We have two kids! A dog! A good sex life! We met in Spain in our 20s, where I am from and where he was vacationing. Following his proposal, I moved to the U.S. to start a family. His face was cold, unwavering. Oh God. It was true. I vomited. “Who is Molly?” I asked. He claims I don’t know her, and says, “Just leave it alone. It’s done.” They wished to be married, and he was divorcing me. He left our home without saying another word. He didn’t collect his belongings. He didn’t care. I was devastated. In the coming days, my desire for information became rampant. I scoured his computer and stumbled across a password-protected folder. After hours of trying to guess his password, Eureka! I guessed it. It was our first dog’s name, followed by our wedding anniversary date. Bastard. Where was that sentimentality when he was screwing Molly? With the click of a mouse, I was transported into the clandestine world of my husband’s darkest secrets.

It would have been impossible to brace for what I was about to see. Hundreds of images of my husband and I engaged in various sexual acts poured across the screen. He had been collecting sexual images unbeknownst to me throughout our entire relationship. I watched my body writhing in passion, and change throughout two pregnancies. I had no idea these images existed, nor did I consent to them. How could I have been so stupid? Where was the camera? What did he do with these images? My questions were endless, as was the vomiting. What I saw next ripped through me. Molly. There were hundreds of images and videos of her, and the two of them, spanning over several years. The pictures and videos ranged from explicit sexual behavior to the most boring of tasks. She had a petite frame, perfect shiny hair, concave where I was robust, smooth where I was dimpled, ageless where I was tired. She was effervescent and I was beaten down. It was clear my husband loved her, or lusted with all of his being, and she loved him in return. I closed the laptop, humiliated, paralyzed, and defeated; sobbing for hours.

The next day I opened the computer again to continue my investigation; as if I hadn’t had enough torture. An intervention would have been a miracle, but alas I was up to my own devices in a heartbreaking quest to make sense of the implosion that was my life. As I searched his web browser, I stumbled across a website I did not recognize. Upon clicking the link, I learned it was an amateur porn website. My husband had an account. What?!? It was logged in. Every voice in my head screamed, “Don’t look! You don’t want to know!” But a gnawing intuition would not let me look away. When I finally mustered up the courage to look at his postings, I saw every inch of my body posted on this website. Hundreds of videos and pictures of my naked body, from multiple angles, and our sex. Our most passionate and intimate moments! The comments were horrific, and varied. Some men expressed arousal and other made derogatory comments about my body. Even some women commented, mostly to slut-shame me for being willing to post these images and videos. If they only knew how in the dark I was! Videos and images of Molly were there too. There were comparisons between Molly and me, and they were not kind and not in my favor. I was devastated that my husband viewed me in such poor light, and not only did not defend me, but was the source of such venom.

How could he? Why would he? The vomiting started again. How am I vomiting? I haven’t eaten in three days. I blacked out. I closed the laptop and backed away from his office door into the bedroom we once shared. It took me two weeks to garner the strength necessary to leave my apartment and speak to an attorney. My friends were supportive, yet I could face no one. I was absolutely obliterated by the betrayal of my husband’s affair and his degrading posts, what I later learned were called revenge porn. As the truth came out, I discovered my husband had been harboring resentments toward me for years, feeling trapped in a marriage with the woman who relied on him for a green card. Ironically, his new girlfriend Molly is also not a U.S. citizen. So in the end, Molly will get her green card and my husband, and I got the trauma of having been sexually betrayed and humiliated by a man I loved with my whole being.

***

The above story is just one account of one individual’s traumatizing experience at the hands of revenge porn. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of stories describing haunting experiences from partners who have been betrayed by a loved one they once trusted. Revenge porn, or the sharing of nonconsensual porn, is a topic that has come up in the news frequently within the last few years. This increased media attention is possibly because cases of private, sexually explicit photos and videos of celebrities have been making their way to the masses. Though the news is quick to cover celebrity victims and perpetrators, this traumatic breach of trust and privacy doesn’t just happen to Hollywood stars. According to The Heritage Foundation, 1 in 25 Americans in the age bracket of 15-29 are victims of revenge porn. Since revenge porn is a relatively new and sometimes misunderstood term, it’s important to discuss what revenge porn is, how it can emotionally harm people, and how someone can take action if they have been or currently are a victim.

What is Revenge Porn?
In brief, revenge porn is the digital posting of sexually explicit photos or videos of a person, without their consent, in order to degrade and humiliate the subject. Revenge porn is often posted by a scorned lover, ex-boyfriend/girlfriend, or husband/wife, seeking revenge by digitally exposing their partner. The content of revenge porn can be anything from a risqué selfie, intended to be shared between two people, or a subject can be sexually photographed or filmed without their knowledge or consent. A perpetrator of revenge porn distribution may post the intimate photos of another on their social media accounts or on the many revenge porn websites that exist. Revenge porn is a product of eroticized rage, a fusion of anger and sexuality, and a need for revenge, humiliation or obtaining an illusion of power.
What are the laws around revenge porn?
According to the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, 38 states in the United Sates currently have laws in place to protect victims of revenge porn. In addition to the current laws, eight more states have bills pending in legislation, according to C.A. Goldberg Law. In the state of California, revenge porn, or “unlawful distribution of images,” is considered a disorderly conduct misdemeanor. Laws against revenge porn vary by state. You can find your specific state’s laws against revenge porn here.
How Does Revenge Porn Effect Victims?
Having sexually explicit photos or videos shared on the internet without consent is an incredibly traumatic experience for victims, and aligned with the emotional experience of a contact sexual assault. The decision to send someone you trust intimate photos, only to be betrayed and exposed, can make a victim feel taken advantage of, ashamed, and betrayed. The victim may also feel a sense of hopelessness or lack of control, knowing that the internet is now and forever will be an unforeseen home for intimate images or videos of their body. Victim shaming and blaming is an additional layer of abuse, often experienced by victims of revenge porn, as critics will often argue that the victim is at fault for sending intimate photos in the first place. Although the victim is in fact choosing to send intimate photos to a trusted person in their life, they did not consent for anyone else to see these images, never mind the entire internet. Therefore, when intimate content is shared, with disregard to the subject’s consent, the perpetrator has now violated the victim’s rights and is eligible to face legal repercussions.
Revenge porn continues to engender a plethora of attention and media coverage as more stories of intimate, nonconsensual photo and video sharing come to light. Unfortunately, the staggering statistics are rising as technology evolves and advances. The number of platforms in which a perpetrator can leak intimate photos are endless. It’s important to know the laws in your state of residence as well as know how to protect yourself if you or someone you know becomes a victim of revenge porn.

References:

  • Author Unknown. (2016). Revenge Porn and Its Victims. Retrieved on 07/10/17 from https://nobullying.com/revenge-porn/.
  • Carnes, P. (2015). Facing the Shadow: Starting Sexual and Relationship Recovery, Third Edition. Gentle Path Press.
  • Cyber Civil Rights Initiative. (2014). Power in Numbers. Retrieved on 07/10/17 from https://www.cybercivilrights.org/revenge-porn-infographic/.
  • Goldberg, C. (2017) State Revenge Porn Laws. Retrieved on 07/10/17 from http://www.cagoldberglaw.com/states-with-revenge-porn-laws/.
  • Larkin, P. (2017). Fighting Back Against “Revenge Porn.” Retrieved on 07/10/17 from http://www.heritage.org/crime-and-justice/report/fighting-back-against-revenge-porn.