It was December I awoke sick; my satin PJs soaked in sweat despite the cold weather outside. Laying on the bathroom floor my phone chimed. It seemed to shake me out of my frozen state, and I stood up. I picked up my phone and went to lay on the couch. Another chime and I open my phone to 4 texts from a number I didn’t have saved on my phone. There was one grey bubble that said: “you should see this.” With it was three links, I thought it was a spam text. I ignored it. An hour went by, and another bubble appeared, “I’m sorry I just thought you need to know.” I responded “Who is this? I don’t have this number saved.” They responded, “I’m sorry I just thought you should know.”
Deciding this wasn’t spam I click on the first link a pop-up ad took over the page. I hit the x to close the ad exposing the top of my head and my eyes. My thumb moved the familiar image down, I immediately went back to the text string and clicked the second link. The same picture appeared. Back again I click the third link. A picture I sent to someone I was in love with was staring back at me. I sat up and started searching my name. I went back to sites in a panic as I scroll down I begin to read vile things about me. Things I didn’t understand. Confused and ashamed I sat frozen staring off the weight and panic but unable to form a thought or rationalize what I was seeing.
I don’t know how long I sat there, but at some point, the shock waned enough to send a screenshot and a link to him. Met with denial and what at the time seemed like desperateness I know now was manipulation. “I don’t know how this picture got out” was the only answer he gave. The person won’t return my text; no one will say how it got off his phone onto the internet.
Embarrassed and ashamed, I am in my 30’s how could I have sent a picture like that? Should I have known better? Wanting to hide but knowing I needed someone to help me figure this out I go to a friend trying to understand. As we read through comments and posts, we both start to realize this is a woman, Then a post that saying I stole her man and it became clear to me who the woman must be.
A woman I believed was a casual fling he had whom I met once at a party and knew had done mics about rape and was a claimed feminist. Whom I was told this was merely a friend with benefits. I believed him. For the next few days, I didn’t sleep or eat. I didn’t go to work or leave my apartment. I sat at my desk chain smoking while I combed the Internet for an answer. Emailing every website my face was on begging them to remove it in some cases paying. I felt fear, a constant panic, and shame.
My hair dirty, my mind has begun to crack when I get an email from a site apologizing for allowing the revenge porn. I google the term, and as I read articles and stories, I felt a familiar violation. My embarrassment from sending the picture was buried under anger. The more I realized the apparent violation I was horrified. Still, no answers only a guess that “She must have stolen it from my phone” not being able even to think there was another option to how she got my picture I went along. I went together.
I felt myself breaking I felt the lifetime of insecurity and victimization consume me. I finally cried myself to sleep consumed with the powerlessness that I was confronting.
I woke, showered and decided to get back to my life. It was the early afternoon when the first FB msg arrived. I don’t know who but a link a person sent me a link I barely knew along with other painful words. One way the apparent intent to humiliate me resulted in an ally. Suicidal thoughts soon followed and after exhausting favors from friends in tech and a hefty chunk of my savings the wound began to scab. I stopped listening to my gut, and I resigned in exhaustion to believing him.
Some time passed, and I tried to pretend I was okay. I decided not to look every day and sometimes I would even make it a few hours out of bed without looking. I slowly became comfortable with the hollowness I felt when my google alert emails came for when my name appears.
I started to trust. Then an email from an ex who was sent a message from the fling. The nightmare began again, the hacking, the anonymous text, the fake FB accounts messaging. I was trapped. Friends wanted me to forget, but she wouldn’t stop so I could just move past it. It just wouldn’t stop.
A social media account hacked warning, notifications for compromised accounts. Gossip being passed around and when I could speak up about it eventually exhausting the few that either found out from scandal or I confided in all believing a rejection of a misunderstood relationship lead to this betrayal.
Calls with a lawyer only to find there are no laws there is nothing illegal about any of this. All I have is a friend who hacks giving me an IP address that’s in the vicinity of where fling girl lives. That was all I had and none of the money or time trying to get it down would change what happened.
Months past and I’m still trying to get over it. Fighting and tears of confusion met with bits of truth revealed. Slowly I learned about sleeping over, and the length of the relationship was more disclosed.
Finally, I pieced together that he lead her on and I was the target of her pain, anger, and rejection. I felt empathy. I felt sadness and somewhat understood remembering when I was younger and the loss of control I felt when rejected. My hatred subsided, and I started to look for understanding. I called every Thursday to the DA’s office, to a lawyer to a website to whatever it was I determined was the next step to find some way somehow to get my picture down. Meetings and emails were saying the same thing over and over again to strangers.
“I sent my boyfriend a nude picture of me, a girl he was seeing stole it from his phone and posted it online. My accounts are being hacked, and I keep receiving harassing messages. Help me.”
Met with silence mostly or being placed on hold to only hear, I’m sorry there is nothing we can do to help you.
No one could or would help me. I exhausted all the ears I could find. There was no one to share the horror of when it would appear on a new site. Afraid to start a fight or be met with an eye roll, I stopped updating anyone on my weekly calls and research. I finally got to file a civil case, emptying the rest of my savings I beg a lawyer to help. In some ways, it was like paying for a friend.
I needed to say to someone I feel dirty and scared. I’m confused and overwhelmed. I don’t understand any of this. I don’t know what to do. Every day its still there and it won’t go away. Please, someone, help me. Aside from my therapist, I couldn’t find the friend or the ear that realized how destroyed I was by this. It just felt like no one cared.
The more alone I felt, the more I clung on to him. The more desperate I became my only solace was that he was still there. In some way, I wasn’t alone. The longer it went one, the more I isolated, the more I pulled away from others. Continually trying to be okay, trying to put this in the past while trying to get my picture down at the same time.
Months passed, and every day it’s still there, waiting for a lawyer’s response. Enjoying the weeks where there was no harassment. Stay at the moment became my mantra. Then June came six months from the first text. I arrive in LA for a trip to my Headquarters, looking forward to a week away from the stress of NYC.
My CEO asked to meet with me, typical when I’m in town. When I walked in our company lawyer was sitting there, confused briefly, I see the top of head on his computer. I slumped into the chair meant for me. I couldn’t breathe. He begins to talk, I expected him to say “We found this” but that’s not what came out of his mouth. Instead, he said “This was sent to me, the subject said ‘Do you know what whore is working for you’” With compassion, he and the lawyer kept talking. I wanted to crawl inside myself and disappear. All I could think was why didn’t I bring more Xanax on this trip, how else could I die tonight? I could barely hear anything or take in the information they were giving me. I just wanted to kill myself. Quietly and alone I just wanted to not exist for another moment.
My boss was compassionate and kind; my friends were shocked and horrified. The lawyer was going to help me and was contacting the lawyer I had hired in NYC. I thought for a moment okay this will work out because now they can say who it is and what happened. Then this could end. I could move on.
Weeks pass emails with questions are sent to me, illegal hacked information my friends pulled provided. Reaching out to the person who emailed and three good-looking men helped scrub and perform unlawful hacks all to help this end for me. More questions and I had to go to him because in my weakness I was still mistaken his presence as support. The pressure of the lawyers researching or maybe the need for a clear conscience the truth started to come out. As he talked the ache in my gut calmed, and what felt like a stabbing pain replaced it.
“I sent her the pictures.”
Needing more information I asked for proof, as my computer that he had been using open. I sat in a state of confusion. They had been messaging about threesomes. He sent the pictures of me, and I became a fantasy for them to utilize. The spoke of me, and my body and they texted about the acts they wanted to perform together. I was disgusted and sickened. I left and went and called my lawyer. I drove around sobbing wishing not to be alive.
Friday morning the lawyer called I had no case. There were no laws broken in the state of NY. If she continues to harass or get further information we might be able to look into cyberstalking. I felt my knees go weak and I sat on a box at Park and 39th because I couldn’t walk anymore. As my lawyer kept talking all I could feel was defeat. There would be no justice. There would only be a continuation of gossip and fear.
The documents and stories were updated. I felt shame every time someone who knew saw me. I knew I couldn’t do mics; I knew I could no longer try to meet people, I knew that I am stuck in my life and there was nothing I can do to change it.
Every day I still check and every day it’s there, my picture and those words about me.