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My Ex Threatened Me With Revenge Porn — Here's How I Stopped Him

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My Ex Threatened Me With Revenge Porn — How I Stopped Him
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Heartbreak, Sex

Plus seven things you can do to keep your sexy selfies from showing up everywhere.

Go ahead. Wag your finger at me and tell me I should know better. Just know that I am not going to apologize and I do not feel ashamed.

Yes, I sent naked selfies to my boyfriend. Now my EX-boyfriend. Of course, I knew sending them was a risk — a risk I actually gave thought to before doing it.

I considered that my career focuses on divorce and relationships, that if worse came to worst and he ever decided to be a total jerk and share them somewhere, I wasn't worried that I would lose my job.

I would hate for my parents, my children’s friends’ parents, and anyone other than the man I sent them to see them, but I am an adult who sent them to someone I was in a committed relationship with.

And if I do say so myself, I looked pretty damn good.

But most of all, I trusted him.

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Unfortunately, I can’t say I was completely shocked when, about a year after we broke up, this person I had loved and tried hard to make things work with began sending me text messages, emails, Facebook messages and voicemails threatening to post pictures he still has.

Why? In his words, "payback."

Several months after we broke up, he and his best friend's girlfriend drove to Vegas to get married. His friend and I then dated for about 3 weeks while confused and commiserating.

When I found it all too bizarre and stopped seeing that guy too, the new guy told the old guy we'd been together. (What better way to kill three birds with one stone than simultaneously enrage your now married ex-girlfriend and ex-best friend while also screwing over the woman who just dumped you. Excuse my French, but WTF?)

That's when the barrage of texts and voice mails started, calling me a slut and a whore and reminding me he still had the photos I'd sent him while we were together — and that he was going to post them online.

What upset me most was that he specifically threatened to post these pictures from our past relationship to my business page on Facebook.

He didn’t just intend to humiliate me; he intended to annihilate me.

A good friend happened to send me a message on Facebook chat while I sat frozen with panic, and I wrote back about what was going on. Within moments my friend had sent me several links to websites developed to protect women from revenge porn.

My first thought was, "Revenge porn? This is a thing?" My second thought was, "Revenge porn is a thing! There is something being done and steps I can take to protect myself!”

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I first happened upon the website of the End Revenge Porn (ERP) campaign, founded by revenge porn victim Holly Jacobs, PhD, and which has since been incorporated into the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI).

According to their definition, nonconsensual pornography (NCP), the term now preferred by most victim advocates is "the distribution of private, sexually explicit images of individuals without their consent."

They further describe two additional categories of nonconsensual pornography:

  • —Recorded Sexual Assault (RSA): "The image or video capture of a sexual assault, typically by a rapist, to further humiliate a victim and/or discourage them from reporting the crime."
  • —Sextortion: "The act of threatening to expose a nude or sexually explicit image in order to get a person to do something such as share more nude or sexually explicit images, pay someone money, or perform sexual acts."

As explained by Mary Ann Franks, Legislative and Tech Policy Director & Vice-President of the CCRI and a professor of law at the University of Miami School of Law, in their guide for legislators:

"The disclosure of sexually explicit images without consent and for no legitimate purpose — also known as 'revenge porn' — causes immediate, devastating, and in many cases irreversible harm. A vengeful ex-partner, opportunistic hacker, or rapist can upload an explicit image of a victim to a website where thousands of people can view it and hundreds of other websites can share it. In a matter of days, that image can dominate the first several pages of search engine results for the victim’s name, as well as being emailed or otherwise exhibited to the victim’s family, employers, co-workers, and peers. Victims are frequently threatened with sexual assault, stalked, harassed, fired from jobs, and forced to change schools. Some victims have committed suicide."—

Not only is revenge pornography morally wrong, it is a very real form of sexual abuse.

The next site I visited, Bekah Wells' of Women Against Revenge Porn, offered the relief of coming to understand that even though I willingly sent these pictures, I still own them.

Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), "A copyright is not something that you can touch. It is a right. If you take a photo of yourself (selfie), you own the copyright to the photo. Even if you physically hand over, text, or email your picture to another person, you still own the copyright. The recipient does not own it."

Not only are these grassroots non-profits taking on this issue, but according to an article published by The Washington Post, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reached a settlement in a lawsuit involving revenge porn, and as a result, they are now considering actively "pursuing revenge pornographers for unfair business practices."

The article quotes Franks, who says the FTC's actions are a significant "statement by the federal government that disseminating sexually explicit images of a person without 'affirmative express consent in writing' is illegal."

Even with all of this information, there will be people who stand by the opinion that anyone who sends out an explicit photo of themselves is implicitly allowing for these photos to eventually become public.

Aware of the possibility? Yes. Allowing for it? No!

The unfortunate truth is that any time a woman is alone with a man, she is aware that harassment, sexual assault, rape, or some other form of violence is a possibility. Does that mean she's allowing for it? No!

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Couples share intimate photos, letters, and experiences from a deeply personal bond. I still believe exchanging intimate pictures can be great under the right circumstances.

In long-term marriages, they can reignite imagination and passion. In long-distance relationships, they can keep you connected and playful.

In your relationship with yourself, they can be an empowering record of the beauty of your own body that you can look back to when you are feeling bad about yourself, or even in the future after gravity has taken (further) effect and you want to smile at what a hot number you were.

So now that you and I both know that revenge porn is a real thing, here are seven steps you can take to protect yourself from becoming a victim:

  1. Consider your own line of work, stage of life and other personal considerations before ever sending anyone, no matter how close you are or how much you trust them, photos of yourself that you would be afraid for anyone else to find.
  2. If you do choose to share intimate photos of yourself, have a conversation beforehand with your partner about what you expect him or her to do with them.
  3. Take some time to familiarize yourself with information available on the Internet regarding revenge porn. In particular, check out victims' rights attorney Carrie Goldberg's site to find out if there is currently a law against revenge porn in your state, and get detailed information about filing a report with law enforcement, hiring an attorney, and submitting a DMCA notice.
  4. Occasionally do Google Web and image searches for your name and photos to make sure nothing has already been posted without your knowledge or consent.
  5. If you receive a threat by email, text or voicemail, document and save it. I personally give constant thanks to the gods of screenshots.
  6. Share links to the helpful information you find openly on social media. The more awareness there is that there are criminal consequences for these actions, the less likely abusers will be to make threats, which themselves are terribly depleting.
  7. If you find yourself being threatened or having been victimized, call the CCRI Hotline at 1-844-878-CCRI (2274) for immediate assistance.

You can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24/7/365 at 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).

For myself, just knowing that advocates and lawmakers are taking this issue seriously provided me great comfort. I was able to start breathing again, knowing that if he continues to harass me or eventually does post a picture anywhere online, I know the number to call.

Heck, when I did a Google search of myself to make sure he hadn’t already put pictures up somewhere, I even found a fantastic article mentioning me that I had no idea existed.

Would I thank him for it? Not on your life. Am I thankful to be better informed? Absolutely.

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Deputy Editor Arianna Jeret, MA/MSW, is a recognized expert on love and relationships, as well as a former divorce coach and mediator, who has been featured in Cosmopolitan, The Huffington Post, Yahoo Style, MSN, Fox News, Bustle, Parents and more. Find her on Twitter and Instagram for more.

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